Mural artist helps students in St. Pete create mural with lasting impact

Ya La'Ford is all about stepping back.

"[Art] is kind of like life," she said. "Be patient and it'll come."

On Friday, she helped 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders from Mt. Zion Christian Academy in St. Pete finished up a mural.

"We are creating drips that represent that we are oozing with beauty all around and that they need to look at what they see every day," she said.

The mural at 515 22nd St. S in the Warehouse Arts District is called "Woven."

She's hoping the image of the sunrise helps them start fresh every day with thoughts of togetherness, particularly as they may be bombarded with images of pain in the outside world.

"These kids are our future, and therefore, it becomes essential, to make sure they know they are supported, and that they are loved, and that art can be a powerful force of healing," she said.

This is the sixth year she's helping students at Mt. Zion make art that the rest of the community can see. La'Ford has done work at the Chihuly and other museums as well as the Rowdies' stadium.

"I love to see them learning. They will come back into the classroom, they will write about it, talk about it, sing about it, we'll even dance and make up tunes to the experiences that they have enjoyed," said teacher Phillip Whitlow.

The great thing for the 50 students, La'Ford says, is that murals are like diamonds, in that they're forever.

"They can bring their family, they can bring their friends," she said. "They can know that they were an instrument in making other people in their community happy."

The new mural is located across from the artist's "King's Dream Unite" mural on the historic Manhattan Casino wall.