The Sabbatical is OVER but the journey just BEGINS… Campaign to SAVE the Oscar Thomas mural at the Maximo Gomez (Domino Park)
My sabbatical experience has been life changing to say the least. I am so grateful to my employer for affording me the opportunity to pursue such a personal and rewarding project in memory of my father. This past November I coauthored my first published book entitled On the Road to Victory-Our Struggle as Immigrants in America with my mother Dulcelina Moore. The book is a combination of a memoir and biography of her life and my grandmother’s journey from Costa Rica to the United States. After this huge project was completed, I began to get signs prompting me to do something equally as special for my father. I had to preserve his name and his legacy as an internationally recognized muralist and a local artist residing in Miami, Florida.
This year marks 20 years since my father passed away and in my heart I knew I had to do something very special to honor him. He was an extraordinary father who was well-known as an artist throughout Miami. He was also recognized internationally for his murals and other artistic work. I had an obligation to preserve his legacy and in doing so, I started racking my brain. Suddenly it hit me, why not write a book about him and showcase some of his work. I started some very basic research when I realized that this was going to be a huge undertaking. I was going to need some time to pull this off. I was only 15 years old when he died and though I knew he was a great artist, I underestimated his impact on the community. In addition, I did not have in my possession his paintings. I knew I had a lot of work to do. Since my sabbatical leave, I found over 100 articles that featured my father; including articles in The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, The Miami Times, The Biscayne Times just to mention a few. My favorite find was a 1989 audio recording in the History Miami Museum archives by anthropologist, art historian, and author Dr. Brent Cantrell. To think this all started with a random visit to the site in which the receptionist encouraged me to reach out to the archivist to see if my father’s work was part of the collection. I did, and Iater learned that there was an audio recording interview with my dad. It was an exhilarating feeling. I was so emotional that I cried when I heard my father’s voice again after 20 years. In the recording, I was reminded that he literally painted every day. We had an art studio in our house and my dad owned his own art gallery. That meant a minimum of 365 paintings a years for over 25 years. In addition before he passed away there were over 100 painting in his art studio. With that information, I started a #findingmyfatherspainitng social media campaign. Before I knew it, I was getting messages from friends of friends and all sort of people who owned my father’s work. During my sabbatical I was able to meet with these people interview them and photograph my father’s artwork, with their permission, to be included in his biography/art portfolio.
I also had the opportunity to travel to Panama and his hometown of Costa Rica, where I found his first mural of the Last Supper that was commissioned when he was only 19 years old. On this journey, I met family members I never knew I had, interviewed my father’s coworkers, and was welcomed into the homes of dozens of private collectors of my father’s work. It has been the most rewarding experience of my life, thus far. The sabbatical leave has opened up Pandora’s Box. As recent as this past holiday weekend, I was contacted regarding my father’s mural displayed in Little Havana, Florida. It showcases the mural that celebrated the first summit of the Americas held in Miami, Florida during the Clinton Administration. It depicts the 33 heads of state, many of which were of mainly minority and African descent. This mural has been on display for over 20 years and there has been talks of destroying it opposed to protecting it. In addition to interviewing and documenting my father’s work I am now fighting to keep his current murals on display. You can support my mission by signing the online petition and encouraging your family and friends to do the same.
Online Petition http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/351/537/926/
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Author Dr. Tasha Thomas
I am excited to share my journey of finding, cataloging, and archiving my father's (Oscar Thomas Sr.) artwork for generations to come.