Update, June 8: The Downtown DeLand Community Redevelopment Agency unanimously agreed to add The Hill, DeLand’s planned Black history mural, to the list of murals the city maintains. Over the lifetime of the mural — approximately 10 years — city staff estimated that maintenance costs will be $2,000, or 20-percent of the mural’s value.
Members of the CRA were excited to see the mural come to fruition.
“I think this will be a fantastic addition and a great part of the overall streetscape project,” City Commissioner and CRA Member Chris Cloudman said.
“Looking at the exhibit, it looks really nice, and I just think it will be a nice diversity piece to add to our collection of murals,” City Commissioner and CRA Member Jessica Davis added.
Work on the mural is expected to begin as soon as next week.
The original story from June 4 continues below
After experiencing some delays, a new mural honoring DeLand’s Black history was approved by the DeLand Public Mural Art Committee May 23, with a caveat that the City of DeLand must first approve funds to maintain it.
If the funds are approved, the mural, titled The Hill, will be painted in the heart of DeLand’s historic Black district, just a block from the J.W. Wright Building. The mural will honor a number of African American figures from DeLand’s history: Amanda Worthy, Carrie Smokes, Dr. Lancaster Starke, Lula Bell Dilligard, Tony Wright, Walter “Zundy” Dixon, Dr. Senator Coleman and Terence “Trent” D’Arby.
The Hill will be painted at 201 W. Voorhis Ave., on the side of a building housing event management company Run 4 a Cause owned by DeLandite Chris Batista. Batista has OK’d the use of his building, and the mural is being planned by a committee that includes Stetson University professor Dr. Asal Johnson and Dr. Joyce M. Cusack Resource Center Director Shilretha Dixon.
The mural will be overseen by prolific local artist Courtney Canova, whose works include the WWII memorial on West New York Avenue, the Downtown DeLand mural honoring horticulturist Lue Gim Gong and more. Canova will be assisted by painters Bianca Braga and Jeremy Canova, who assisted with the recent Lue Gim Gong mural; Oscar Williams and Jaryd Johnson, both of whom assisted with the sickle cell anemia mural, and more.
The bulk of the funding for the mural, $5,000, is coming from AdventHealth DeLand, while other sponsors have contributed money, too. A number of community leaders also wrote letters to the Mural Committee in support of the project.
“The mural would be [an] educational snapshot … of a striving community that was resistant and resilient during the challenging times of segregation, Jim Crow, and racial discrimination,” African American Museum of the Arts Executive Director Mary Allen wrote to the Mural Committee. “This mural is a small but important step to acknowledge and recognize the significance of local Black history in DeLand.”
Emmanuel Christian Ministries pastor and DeLand mayoral candidate Reggie Williams also wrote in support of the project, noting that it would honor the rich history of the building and the area.
“Long gone are the days in which this building housed a black-owned cleaning business which was part of a vibrant business community located along Voorhis Ave.,” he wrote. “It has survived years of change along Voorhis Ave. and now serves as a cornerstone for redevelopment in the community.”
The mural’s been in the making for quite some time. Plans for the mural began before the COVID-19 pandemic, when Johnson and Dixon held neighborhood meetings with Spring Hill residents to determine who should be featured on the mural. They submitted their plans to the city in March, and a lack of a quorum on the Mural Committee pushed discussions from April to May.
The city is also planning a streetscape project along West Voorhis Avenue, and the Mural Committee noted that the city would have to ensure the mural would not be damaged by redevelopment, or whether it could potentially be painted in tandem with the streetscape project.
The next step for the mural is for the city to approve funds, around $900, to maintain the mural. This decision will be made by the Downtown DeLand Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), potentially at the agency’s next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 6, in the City Commission Chambers in DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.
Who will be featured?
Dr. Senator Coleman — DeLand’s first Black physician
Amanda Worthy — DeLand’s first Black midwife
Dr. Lancaster Starke — Local physician whose office was located next to the J.W. Wright Building on Voorhis Avenue
Carrie Smokes — Local midwife who worked in Dr. Starke’s office
Lula Bell Dilligard — Local beautician with a shop near the J.W. Wright Building
Tony Wright — Health care advocate and the younger brother of DeLand businessman James W. Wright
Walter Dixon, aka Zundy — Barber who ran a nearby barbershop
Terence “Trent” D’Arby — Grammy-winning performing artist who grew up in DeLand