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Artist restores vandalized Black history murals at Perry Harvey Park

A man repairs a mural.
City of Tampa
Rufus Butler Seder is the original artist of the murals. He traveled to Tampa from his home in Massachusetts to restore his work.

The tiled murals were shattered in October 2023. It cost the city $5,000 to repair them.

Black history art at Perry Harvey Sr. Park has been restored.

Vandals smashed a number of the tiles of the Black history murals in October.

The art is a memorial to Black civil rights advocates in Tampa and was part of an almost $7 million park makeover in 2016.

“Generations later, we had this opportunity,” said Tampa city councilwoman Gwendolyn Henderson, “to represent the culture, the rich history that was there in The Scrub, that turned into Central Avenue, which was the business economic hub of our area.”

The Scrub is a community between downtown Tampa and Ybor City that former Black slaves called home after the Civil War. It eventually became the most densely populated Black neighborhood in Tampa in the early 20th century.

The murals at Perry Harvey Park have been a source of education for parkgoers for almost a decade.

“I know a lot of school groups go there, a lot of conventions,” said Melissa Davies, the senior arts specialist with the City of Tampa.

“It's a really nice opportunity for people to learn and to experience the history just by simply visiting the park and learning through the art."

Henderson said the city was committed to restoring the art, so it brought in Rufus Butler Seder, the original creator of the murals. He traveled from his home near Boston in April.

After weeks of replacing over 30 tiles and covering them with a high-pressure laminate to make them stronger, the displays were finally restored.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the city paid about $5,000 for the reconstruction.

No arrests have yet to be made in connection with the vandalism.

Smashed pains of a mural
City of Tampa
The City of Tampa paid almost $7 million in 2016 to make over the park. They added murals like these, which were vandalized in October 2023.

Aileyahu Shanes is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for the summer of 2024.