Artist Chosen for the Pride Center Mural Project

Rendering of The Residences at Equality Park (Courtesy Behar Font & Partners, P.A.)

Even with the coronavirus, the Pride Center is abuzz. Seniors are moving into the newly opened Residences at Equality Park, improvements are being made around the campus, staff members continue to connect with the community via Facebook Live, and by the end of the month, a 3,000 square foot mural will be erected. 

Steven Teller, originally from Fort Lauderdale and now living in St. Augustine, was selected to create Equality Park’s new murals, chosen from more than 90 artist applications.

“There’s a lot of impact in public art and what it can do in the community and the message it can create,” Teller said. “A lot of my stuff is using nature and bright colors and harmonious color schemes.”

Teller found out about the call for artists through friends and the art community, and he was drawn to how open the Pride Center and ArtServe — who are collaborating on the project — were to hearing ideas from artists. In his application, he shared his vision for a mural that would showcase growth, positivity and hope. 

It resonated with the team.

“I am so incredibly excited to witness the positive and uplifting impact that Steven Teller’s signature style of bright and imaginative creativity infused with deep meaning will bring — not only to this space, but to the entire community,” Pride Center CEO Robert Boo said in a statement. 

With the nation fighting against racial injustice and the White House’s attacks on transgender people, Teller feels it makes the mural he is working on even more important. Ever since his proposal was accepted, he has been interviewing members of the LGBT community locally and across the country, as well as board members at the Pride Center, to help guide the mural. He said that as a straight man, he wanted to hear from the community who would be most impacted by the mural.

From sharing coming out stories, societal stigmas, and self-esteem, Teller found that something that resonated with everyone was the feeling of self-acceptance and acceptance by others for being yourself. This guided the use of flowers, inspired by the colors of the rainbow and progressive flags. With help from the community, the flowers can be nurtured and continue to grow. He also is including birds flying free in the mural.

“I want that first emotion, the first impact, to be really representative of a welcoming, loving space for someone who has never been to the Pride Center before,” he said of the mural.

At 30, Teller’s work has been showcased in murals across the country, from Jacksonville and Orlando to Chattanooga, Memphis, New York City, Colorado and more. He’s especially proud of a piece he created in Chicago last summer outside of the Cornerstone Community Outreach transitional shelter for homeless families. In “If Only You Knew,” a young Black woman with beautiful dreads hanging to her waist looks out into the distance, surrounded by bright blue flowers.

While he’s gotten used to the pressure of creating public art, Teller says it doesn’t minimize the importance of the work he does.

“Some of the first walls that I ever painted that were upwards of 50 feet tall in the middle of a city, there definitely is that moment of an ego check where it’s like, ‘Is what I’m going to say worthy of this space and to see all these other people see and receive this work? Is what I’m saying worthy of impacting their day?’ A few years ago, I probably would have been crippled with pressure.”

For the Equality Park project, he will be painting the panels in his studio in St. Augustine, which will then be printed onto metal panels for longevity. The mural is expected to be installed at the end of September. 

Teller has been given a stipend or $5,000 for the mural project, funded by the Community Foundation of Broward.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 4 to 5 p.m. ArtServe Live will present a virtual meet and greet with Teller. More info here.  

Originally published in South Florida Gay News

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