This mural by Michel Mirabal (mee-SHELL meer-a-BAL) is on the back of Soft Water Studios in the Warehouse Arts District. The studio’s address is 515 22nd Street South. But the mural is accessible behind the building, on the Pinellas Trail.
You can join the Trail where it crosses the intersection of 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South. Follow the wide, paved Trail about a block southwest, past the Tesla mural by Carrie Jadus.
Mirabal’s mural is wide – 58 feet across and 18 feet high. Two red, white and blue flags spread across the wall, merging and transforming where they meet in the middle. On the left, the American flag. On the right, the Cuban flag. In the middle of the mural, the two flags blend together.
Both flags are red, white and blue. The American, with thirteen horizontal red and white stripes and a field of white stars on a dark blue background in the upper left. The Cuban, with five wide blue and white horizontal stripes, and on the right, a red triangle and within the triangle, a large white star.
But the colors of the flags aren’t solid, like a normal flag. The blue and white and red stripes are intricate patterns of abstract flowers, and loose red, white and blue petals. So a stripe of white is white flowers nestled together, with stray red and blue petals scattered over it. A stripe of red is tightly packed red flowers, with loose blue and white petals falling.
Where the two flags meet, a blur of red, white and blue flower petals combine to create a storm of color, flying off the flags in all directions and giving the wall a feeling of movement and life.
Underneath the flower petals, outlining both flags, strands of brown barbed wire are painted on the wall. The barbed wire is almost, not quite, hidden by the flowers.
This long, low building is a worn-out grey, with a corrugated tin roof above the mural, and two small square grey metal awnings hanging over the flags. To the left of the mural is the faded sign of Soft Water Laundry, partly covered by a rusted metal awning. This former laundry gives Soft Water Studios its name.
Michel Mirabal lives and works in Havana and is one of Cuba’s most popular artists. He wants his work to help improve relations between Cuba and the U.S. “The barbed wire is the thing we don’t like, the things we need to change about both countries,” he explains. “The flowers are the things we love, the humanity, the coming together.”
In the top right corner of the mural, over the Cuban flag, are the hand-painted words, “For the city of St. Petersburg. Thank you very much.” With the artist’s signature and the date, September 23, 2016.
Mirabal’s work can also be seen in the Wynwood district of Miami, and on planes flown by Havana Air.