“It brings life to spaces. That’s what public art does,” declares Naples photographer Michelle Tricca. Public art murals, she says, promote things that city officials are interested in: rejuvenated economics and an increase in tourism, with an increase in restaurants and bars. She points to the street murals in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood and Kelsey Montague’s “What Lifts You” angel wing murals in Nashville, Los Angeles and Annapolis as examples of how public art can make a city an art destination. “People come from all over the world to see public art,” she says. “It encourages civic engagement and revitalizes community. It celebrates diversity and inclusivity. It’s for the greater good, for the community at large.”
Collier just doesn’t seem interested, she says.
In 2011, Ms. Tricca did have a temporary mural of more than 600 faces on a 1,000-square-foot wall on Bayshore Drive in Naples’ Bayshore Arts district. It was up for nine months.
But when she presented her idea for a new mural to the county commissioners, she recalls one of them saying, “I think Michelle has a beautiful idea. However, I don’t think taxpayer money should fund public art.”
“I did not let that deter me,” Ms. Tricca says.
“Collier County has yet to see the value and importance of supporting public art.”
She spent the past year in quarantine, brainstorming other options.
“I made it happen before,” she says. “I knew I could make it happen again.”
Her solution: use art to fund art.
She’d taken a number of color and black-and-white photographs of cowboys in Immokalee.
Florida was the first state in the nation to have cowboys, she says, and 2021 marks the 500th anniversary of cowboys in Florida.
She immersed herself in the life, documenting life at the Half Circle L Ranch in Immokalee, taking photos of cowboys riding horses, herding cattle, branding them, and huddling around a bonfire in the chilly hours of early morning.
Along with wide-angle landscape photos of the men in action, she shot black-and-white close ups of a horse with its long eyelashes and a cowboy’s boot complete with spurs and the ranch’s brand symbol.
She’s put together “Florida Cowboys,” a book of those photos, printed with archival ink on fine art coated paper and bound in a fine grain leather cover with the title branded on the front. She plans to sell 100 of the limited-print-run book as well as separate prints to raise money to fund her new mural.
The money raised will go towards her The Face of Immokalee project; Ms. Tricca wants to take black-and-white portrait shots of the residents of Immokalee.
“I want to take dynamic photos of people from all different walks of life, all ages, all races, ethnicities,” she says — any resident of Immokalee.
She’ll then put these photos on the side of a wall at Zocalo Plaza.
When she was driving to a meeting with the Immokalee Foundation, she saw the blank walls and immediately thought of them as the perfect canvas for her photographs.
“Collier County is notorious for being one of the wealthiest Zip Codes in the United States,” she says. “It’s pitched as a white golfer guy town, when Collier County is really so diverse in cultures and lifestyles and ethnicities and races. As a visual artist and sentimentalist, with my medium of portrait photography, it made sense to produce another mural in this town, but in Immokalee.
“Immokalee is under-recognized, underserved and economically challenged,” she says, noting that it’s just 40 miles from Naples with its golf courses and beaches. “But it’s still part of Collier County.
“All those homogenous white stucco blank walls in Collier County — they’re prime canvases for art. I see beyond what things are, to what they could be.”
And what she saw was great white space just awaiting her black and white portraits.
“They could hold art and bring life and spirit to all these places that are just homogenized,” she says.
Ever since she knew she wanted to make a career of photography, she’s been drawn to portraits.
“When growing up I was always the one of my friends to bring out the camera,” she says. “Back in the film days, I documented my friends and our good times together. Seeing a photograph can evoke a feeling, a memory, all over again.
“Portraits,” she says, “are expressive. Faces emit emotion and portraits capture emotion. Looking into someone’s eyes and getting a sense of the story behind their eyes and expression — it just elicits this feeling for me.”
She shot 30 portraits for the project before the pandemic stopped everything, she says.
She’s partnering with the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency and with the American Society of Media Photographers. The fiscal sponsorship of ASMP allows her to receive tax-deductible contributions for the project.
“Their mission is supporting individual photographers who are working on culturally relevant projects,” she says. “They saw my project as something they want to support.”
For the first phase of the project, Ms. Tricca will put 16
8’x5’ portraits on the sides of semi trucks: two trucks, four portraits to each side. The trucks belong to Lipman Family Farms, which is donating the space on the side of its trucks.
Ms. Tricca sees them as mobile murals.
“They will drive through other parts of Collier County,” she says. “They will bring public art to the people. It’ll be surprising to see it on the road. It’s a moving exhibit to bring mindfulness to the project.”
Ms. Tricca has given an open invitation to the residents of Immokalee to be photographed for this mural. She will take a portrait of whoever shows up, and that portrait will go on the wall, along with the others.
This is a collaborative project with all the people of Immokalee, she says.
“Public art is my form of fusing activism and philanthropy, to promote the welfare of others and taking vigorous action to do so,” Ms. Tricca says.
“I’m combining that with my art of portrait photography to celebrate the soul of Immokalee.” ¦
In the KNOW
If you want to buy Michelle Tricca’s book, “Florida Cowboys,” which sell for $1,200 apiece, contact her at: www.photographsforphilanthropy.com. Only 100 numbered and signed artist’s books will be available.
If you want to purchase any prints, which start at $150 or donate money to her project, contact her at: www.photographsforphilanthropy.com.
For more information on her Faces of Immokalee project, go to www.michelletricca.com/projects/the-face-of-immokalee.
To make tax-deductible contributions go to www.asmp.org/asmp-foundation-fiscal-sponsorship-the-face-of-immokalee-project-michelle-tricca/
Leave a Reply