No matter which district you drive through in Cayman, you’re likely to happen upon a mural.
Older, more weathered displays have been joined by vibrant fresh creations as this art form enjoys a resurgence in local popularity.
Delivering a pop of colour to an otherwise bland wall, modern-day murals continue an artistic tradition which has been popular throughout history. They have been around from cave murals in the Paleolithic times, through Egyptian, Roman, Middle Age and Italian Renaissance periods, and into the urban street art of today.
Oftentimes portraying everyday life scenes, in many countries murals are also used as a method of political and social commentary (think Banksy). Some are more direct representations of community movements and struggles such as Northern Ireland’s Troubles and the Black Lives Matters movement.
Local artist Carlos V. Garcia says that murals have the power to create conversation and change people’s views.
“As well as the embellishment murals can give to a wall or building, there can be a message that creates impact,” he says. “If you are using this medium in the proper way to say something then you can impact or influence society in a good way. Art can even change the lives of people in positive way by giving them a new perspective on things.”
Grand Cayman’s murals thus far are less politically and socially charged, instead serving to beautify blank walls and portray the vibrancy of island life.
A large concentration of the island’s murals are in central George Town. Jason Kennedy’s drum-playing blue iguana scene spans the Cayman Cabana streetside wall, Tansy Maki’s creation adjacent to Fort George offers tourists a perfect photo backdrop, and nearby Sandbar Daiquiri Bar and Grill portrays gorgeous shades of deep blue with South Florida artist Vernon Collins’s vibrant underwater scene.
Opposite this is the largest George Town mural – the Diamonds International building’s ‘Little Light of Mine’, beautifully created by Northern California artist Amandalynn.
She originally began mural work in Cayman as KAABOO Cayman’s art director and created the beautiful mural at 19-81 Brewing Co. on Dorcy Drive which features a blue iguana and tropical foliage.
“I am very passionate about mural work and supporting my muralist and artist community,” she says. “I have found that painting murals in new locations is an instant way to connect to a local community.”
Carlos V. Garcia’s brushwork also adorns many buildings across the island. From the lobby of Morritt’s Tortuga Club, to Cayman Turtle Centre, the Lighthouse School, and the Kimpton Seafire, Carlos’s mural styles and themes vary depending on the project.
“It depends on the place that I am or the feeling I feel,” he says. “One day I love to paint historical pictures but also abstract backgrounds and other days realistic portraits or just mix all of them in one piece.”
It is not just outside that murals are enjoying a worthy resurgence, with many businesses incorporating them into their interior spaces. Starbucks and Atlantis Submarine are two such examples, with Cayman Enterprise City recently unveiling a large Dready beach scene mural in its Strathvale House location.
Private homes, too, are enjoying the impact of large murals, both indoors and out.
Morgan Olley, who has a background in street art, and professional photographer Heather Holt have a purpose-built art wall in their garden on which they have collaborated on their first large-scale mural. Morgan first did the galactic backdrop for the Manta Wall with his spray paint, then Heather painted the manta ray on top with her oil paints.
Smaller scale murals
Large-scale projects such as those delivered by Amandalynn and Garcia have a massive impact, but Cayman’s smaller public space murals also transform otherwise bland walls, and oftentimes deliver a cultural injection to an urban scene.
Old Man Bay Le’we Go Fishen’ Bait, Tackle, and Souvenirs is adorned with a seafaring mural created by Charles McField and Bruce Smith. It depicts a man reeling in his catch from a fishing boat – an image inspired by two well-known local gentlemen and fishermen – the brother’s grandfather Cyril Rankin, also known as Ole C, and Vincent Miller, the grandfather of their business partner Renee Reid.
At the West Bay Road-Eastern Avenue intersection, Watler’s Community Park now benefits from a beautiful mural welcoming children inside, providing a touch of culture on the way. Painted by Art Nest artists Cera-Tan Kannaird and Christina Pineda on the invitation of Rotary Cayman, and with help from members of the community, the mural portrays children alongside Caymanian imagery such as a catboat, marine life and flora and fauna.
“We made sure to include lots of cultural and historic references on either side to elicit sense of national pride with lots of colour to make passersby smile,” says Christina.
Art for the masses
Murals can not only brighten a space and add interest, but also to deliver art those who may not be exposed to it through traditional gallery venues.
“Murals are certainly better than a boring grey wall,” says Heather Holt. “They add life and excitement to the surrounding environment. They also allow local artists to share their talent on a large scale with
Artist Renate Seffer, whose Breaker’s home displays a vibrant exterior mural, agrees.
“Art itself has the ability to bring joy into people’s lives so to have it in a public space for all to enjoy is really important – it creates conversation and can change the way people view things,” she says.
Originally published in InsideOut magazine, Issue 38, Fall Winter 2020.