FLORENCE, S.C. — Nothing like a crisis to trigger a renaissance, and at least as far as public art goes, Florence is seeing one.
After Dope Art Initiative's decorating an old Florence motel on East Palmetto Street and a community effort to paint a Black Lives Matter street mural on Barnes Street, several Florence basketball courts are about to get some tender loving and artistic care.
"I played here every day when I was a kid," said Florence radio personality Buddah Ratt. "I was really bad then. This used to be my park. I was out here all the time."
Ratt, Ashley O. Davis and Shelada Deas stood on the basketball courts at Levy Park.
"We wanted to do something to contribute back to our neighborhoods," Deas said. "We're all from Florence. I grew up in west Florence. Ashley grew up in north Florence and Buddah grew up in east Florence.
"This is one of the projects to contribute back, to promote that unity in our neighborhoods. We all decided to get together to bring it to Florence."
When COVID-19 hit, the city took down the basketball nets and covered the rims — all but ending pickup basketball games on city courts.
"Because of COVID, the basketball courts are closed, so this is the perfect time for us to get out and paint," Davis said.
Toward that end, the Canvas the Courts project was born to beautify the courts at Northwest Park. Iola Jones Park and Levy Park — in that order, one per month starting in October.
Ratt said the work done so far was paying dividends for some of the artists who have received mural commissions elsewhere.
And, like the street mural, there will be opportunities for the neighborhood kids to join in and make their marks.
"It gives kids something to do. They love to come volunteer to help us," Ratt said. "They can come out, social distance, get a square and work on a project. Just doing a roller brush, a kid can do that, just rolling out a big area."
Many of the people behind the motel murals and the street mural will be involved in the courts project — the setup for which should be easier than the street mural.
Davis said several hours were spent snapping chalk lines and taping letters for the street mural.
"The good thing about the basketball court is the lines already exist. Our jobs won't be as hard as theirs," she said.
"Hopefully it will continue to make our youth more active. Most of the designs I have created are playful and have a lot of color in them to get attention."
The group has the city's blessing to paint and plenty of time for planning. It now is working on fundraising with a $20,000 goal, a gofundme page, a Facebook page, an Instagram account and a website: canvasthecourtsproject.org.
"We have a lot of support from the community so far." Davis said. "We need more. A gallon of paint is $30. Each park has two basketball courts. We also want to hand out basketballs with our design."
Their gofundme page is accessible through the website. To contribute in kind, contact the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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