Hello, my name is Lisa Bean and time really does fly. A couple of years ago, I drove my mother, a Holocaust Survivor, to an outing of the newly formed Impact Theatre in which she was participating. Originally founded by The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, Newtown Alive and Temple Sinai, IMPACT THEATRE is a community-wide educational initiative that strives for human rights and peace by shining a light on the common history of oppression and persecution of both Jewish and African American peoples.
In addition to African American and Jewish teens partnering with Holocaust Survivors and African American elders who lived through segregation, interviewing them to hear their stories and interpreting those stories in an art form of their choice, the participants of Impact Theatre were also given the opportunity to learn more about the shared legacies of both the Jewish and the Black people. We were all called Agents of Impact!
We traveled to The Florida Holocaust Museum and learned more about the atrocities perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazi regime during WWII. We also took a Newtown Trolley Tour and learned a lot about the history of the black community here in Sarasota County. There were several designated stops and points of interest were discussed, among them was a visit through a neighborhood that was once called Overtown, now known as the Rosemary District. We also sang as we went through and around the area to the once segregated Lido Beach and back.
On the ride through the Rosemary District, many murals as part of the Gilbert Mural Initiative were pointed out. I learned that Impact Theatre was considering and being considered for a mural painting on wall. I instantly said I would love to volunteer my time and talent to the project, not able to believe it would truly happen. Once I realized it would indeed come to fruition, I grabbed on with both hands and I didn’t let go until its completion and unveiling in November of 2022.
Although I was new to the mural arts world, the 20 plus years as a graphic artist and vinyl installation technician gave me a solid understanding of large-scale production. I was very sure of myself.
I worked with many people throughout the project, including some of the Impact Theatre students. The finished mural depicts the true essence and meaning of the piece which is loud and clear: “unity not only for the black and Jewish communities but for all.”
Impact Theatre was formed to rekindle the bond between the Jewish and African American communities and although we did share our histories and commonalities, all are welcome to learn with us.
I had no idea how much I would gain on that first trolley tour. A few weeks ago I was again driving my mother to an outing with Year II participants of Impact Theatre, including my mom, and I was delighted by the newest designated stop… that’s right the mural UNITY at 5th Street and Central Avenue has taken its rightful place on the tour which featured many historical spots and all the murals depicting African American icons and legends.
I am so honored to have been part of this process.
Even though this mural isn’t strictly a historic portrait from Overtown’s past, our students and all Agents of Impact have been here for its birth! The historic beginning of Impact Theatre. Let’s keep going forward!
Today Impact Theatre is an important part of my life and has influenced my involvement in other areas such as presenting the Anne Frank Humanitarian award to deserving High School students in several South County High schools and recently. taking a more active part in the Jewish Federations Generations After group to help make sure the truth about the Holocaust is not forgotten or denied.
Now let’s go deeper… about the artwork:
The people have the same abstract faces and bodies as a symbolic way to say we are all the same. They’re not meant to look like someone you know, yet they are everyone you know.
The five skin tones depicted range from the darkest to the lightest, along with three others that represent every skin tone in- between.
The icons for Juneteenth and fist with broken shackles are well known symbols of black strength and resilience.
The Star of David and Hebrew word “Chai” are well known Judaic symbols of peace and life.
The peace sign, the dove, the world, and the tree of life flow from the same core of hope.
Finally, in the center of the mural is the heart which symbolizes love for all, as well as the memory of Dr. Andre Krauss, an art historian and educator who loved the abstract beauty of the artwork but did not get to see the final finished piece.