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The bus stops here: Northwestern students, volunteers transform bus benches into murals

Erick Johnson | 5/1/2014, 9 a.m.
Is it a bus stop or a work of art? To longtime residents, it was a plain, old stone bus ...

Is it a bus stop or a work of art?

To longtime residents, it was a plain, old stone bus bench that included a curved canopy to shade waiting passengers from the sun.

But to local artists and students in Liberty City, it was the perfect canvas to display a dazzling masterpiece.

So they mapped out a plan.

The first step for students from Miami Northwestern and Habitat for Humanity volunteers was choosing the artwork design. Promising, local high school student Bernisha Fleurinor provided the art.

Next, was to study the size of the 10-foot-high bus bench to determine the proportions of their images and designs. And volunteers decided which colors to use to catch the attention of drivers and would-be passengers waiting on the bus at Northwest 22nd Avenue and 56th Street, just two blocks north from the Joseph Caleb Center.

Finally, it was time to paint.

On a hot sunny morning, student volunteers from Miami Northwestern and Habitat for

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Community volunteers and students from Miami Northwestern paint a mural on a bus bench in Liberty City.

Humanity whipped out their paint brushes and began transforming the fading bus bench into a vibrant mural full of colorful designs. Their efforts took eight hours of intense painting and designing near one of the busiest intersections in the neighborhood.

Residents looked on and drivers honked as the volunteers, some standing on a scaffold, cheerfully worked as the route 22 bus whizzed by.

But the humidity intensified in the afternoon, forcing some of the artists to take a break under a nearby tree while others continued painting with the sun bearing down. Despite the challenges, the artists finished just before their 4 p.m. completion time.

Viola! Their latest work of art was a colorful image of the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Next to his sunshine-colored face is a message that reads, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

On the back of the mural an image of a pair of legs climbing was painted next to the words “Take it, it belongs to you.”

The mural is the latest effort by Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project

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Erick Johnson

(MLK Mural), a national, non-profit organization that’s dedicated to promoting youth development, through the arts and education. Founded in 2002 by Pittsburgh artist Kyle Holbrook, the organization has teamed up with the Pinnacle Housing Group and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami to transform all 72 bus stops into a gallery of artworks in Liberty City. Saturday’s event was the second bus stop to exhibit the talents of gifted students in the community.

The first decorated bus stop is just across the street. It was painted last year and includes an image of sun rays beaming down on single family homes. Project leaders said it takes at least five gallons of paint to create a mural on a bus bench.

“It’s so gloomy at the bus stop. It’s (the mural) something to entertain you while you wait,” said Woff Senatus, 23, a local artist who participated in the project. “If you go to Aventura, they have beautiful bus stops so why can’t you have them in urban neighborhoods?”