MDC Museum of Art + Design

The New World Mural adorning the walls of the Freedom Tower’s mezzanine level was painted by the Miami Artisans in 1987.

The New World Mural adorning the walls of the Freedom Tower`s mezzanine level was painted by the Miami Artisans in 1987.

New World Mural, 1513

New World Mural, 1513 Among the Freedom Tower's notable aspects is the New World Mural, a spectacular 40foot by 20 foot mural on the mezzanine level. The mural is a recreation of an original tapestry from the 1920’s that had decayed over the course of the century. Due to the Freedom Tower's long-time closing from 1974 to 1987, this beautiful symbol of the meeting of the Old World and the New World fell in disrepair and remained unknown to most Miamians. On the heels of the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Florida, today it serves as an iconic visual reference of Miami's history.

The mural's center image presents Ponce de Leon and the Tequesta chief before a map of the New World. They are flanked by symbols of discovery, power, myth and adventure. Galleons rigged for full sail end the corners of a pyramidal layout hidden by the imposing circles of the map background. The mural is a fantastical celebration of unity and fate. Mermaids, fruit, fantastic sail boats and galleons, conquistadors with muskets and American Indians in canoes set the scene for half a millennium ago. Juan Ponce de Leon's ship logs recorded their first Native American town encountered, known as Tequesta Miami, a mound town with surrounding villages and fishing camps around newly named Biscayne Bay, on the north bank of the mouth of the Miami River in June 1513.

The mural design was originally commissioned by the Tower's developer, James Middleton Cox in 1925, with the expressed intention to celebrate Ponce de Leon's discovery and naming of Biscayne Bay and Tequesta Miami Mound town. It would later become an important point of reference for Cuban immigrants and now serves as a backdrop for many important ceremonies and events in the Freedom Tower's Ballroom. The mural is included in the National Registry of Public Fine Art.

Ballroom of the Freedom Tower

Poem

The New World 1513 mural’s poem was composed by poet laureate Edwin Markham in 1925. It survives today to celebrate the State of Florida‘s Viva 500th Anniversary of Naming and Discovery by Juan Ponce De Leon in 1513 to which the mural was dedicated and commissioned in 1925 by Gov. James Middleton Cox whilst building the Daily News Tower, now known as the National Land marked Freedom Tower and home to the MDC Museum of Art + Design. Markham had written and recited the epigram for the Lincoln Memorial ceremony in 1922. His recital of his “Lincoln, Man of the People” had an immediate recognition which prompted Gov.James Middleton Cox to request Markham’s pen for a homage to the history of Miami, Florida and “these import moments in our distant histories.” (James Middleton Cox biography)

Here once by April breezes blown, You came O gallant De Leon, Sailed up this friendly ocean stream To find the wells of ancient dream- The Fountain by the poets sung Where life and love are ever young

You found it not, O prince and yet The wells that make the heart forget Are waiting here- yes ever here With touch of some immortal sphere For here below these skies of gold We have forgotten to grow old- Here in this land where all the hours Dance by us treading upon flowers.

-Edwin Markham (1842-1940)

The Miami Artisans

During a restoration of the Freedom Tower in 1987, a group called the Miami Artisans brought new life to the piece with the creation of the New World Mural in 1988.Lead artists and researchers on the mural were Wade Stuart Foy (1959-1996), John E.P. Conroy and William Mark Coulthard. The ground, tone and script artists were Phylis Shaw, Gerome Villa Bergensen and Ana Bikic.

The lost 1925 version was faithfully reconstructed from old black and white photos. Remnants of it where discovered behind temporary panels by the commissioning Architect R. Heisenbottle in 1987. The Miami Artisans also worked at the Coconut Grove Playhouse and were involved in renovation of the Opa Locka City Hall Chambers. The group disbanded in 1997 after the death of founder Wade Foy.