ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Sept. 16) — Michel Mirabal, an acclaimed Cuban painter known for his pairing of Cuban and American flags, is the latest artist to add his work to St. Petersburg’s growing mural collection. Mirabal, as part of the SPFestival 16, will paint a wall of the Warehouse Arts District’s Arts Xchange in the coming week. Various local groups, along with the City of St. Petersburg are partnering for his visit, the latest in a series of artistic and diplomatic efforts aimed at renewing ties to Cuba amid changing diplomatic rules.
Mirabal’s vibrant paintings are instantly recognizable, including one he donated to the U.S. Embassy in Havana that served as a backdrop for a media availability during President Barack Obama’s historic visit in March. Also this year, his work was chosen by Pompano Beach’s Stonegate Bank for a commemorative edition credit card when it became the first U.S. bank to issue a MasterCard debit card that Americans can use in Cuba.
Local St. Petersburg organizers, working with the Cuban Ministry of Culture (a delegation of which visited the city in December), felt Mirabal’s work was an appropriate symbol of changing relations. Since August 2015, under the leadership of Mayor Rick Kriseman and the work of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, St. Petersburg has sought to renew relationships with Florida’s closest foreign neighbor and position itself as a site for a future Cuban consulate.
Mirabal’s visit is organized by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and the Downtown Partnership and will provide a natural addition to the city’s growing collection of murals by international artists. His work will be the 21st painted by international, national and local artists this month, coming on the heels of the Arts Alliance’s annual SHINE Festival.
Besides the city, the Arts Alliance and the Downtown Partnership, also assisting in Mirabal’s visit is the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation and the Warehouse Arts District Association, which is providing the location for the mural along the Pinellas Trail.