SEAFORD — A work of art some label as truly amazing now radiates as a mural on a building bordering Pearl Street.
Hispanic artist Gilberto Rodriguez, at the commissioned request of property owner Craig Aleman, honored Seaford’s history, its Latin American communities and pandemic bravery in his creation.
“I tried to do my best,” Mr. Rodriguez said Saturday during a reveal ceremony for the mural.
Mr. Aleman wanted something creative for the exterior of the building, which houses LINDA VISTA Real Estate Services.
“We painted it. But it was just a white wall. I was like, ‘This is literally a blank canvas.’ So I put word out on social media for artists. I’m not an artist. I’m a very plain-Jane type of guy,” he said. “We commissioned the artist.”
Mr. Aleman’s instructions were basic. “Just incorporate parts of downtown and make it colorful — and just run with it. I’ll pay you for it,” he said. “This is the result. He incorporated elements of Seaford’s history, also with today’s various cultures featured here in town, and of course, the pandemic — the heroes there at the hospital. I think he did a great job. His talent is recognized across the state.”
In addition to COVID-19 nurses and heroes, the mural pays tribute to Sister Rosa Alvarez, co-founder of the nonprofit La Esperanza, as well as Hoy en Delaware, the now-statewide Spanish newspaper that began on the second floor of the building Mr. Aleman now owns.
Chapters of Seaford’s history, along with salutes to various Latin American countries, are also portrayed in the mural.
The project, initially stagnant during the pandemic, was completed in just over two months this summer. On Friday, Mr. Rodriguez applied finishing touches — an anti-graffiti clear coat — on the colorful, two-story-high artwork.
Scaffolding was used for a small portion, but due to the proximity of power lines, the bulk was done via a ladder.
“I was up and down, up and down on the ladder,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
The artist had help along the way. Hispanic painters Itzel Hernandez and Veronica Lopez offered their artistic talents, as did children from Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, who painted flowers in one lower portion.
“I’m excited. I love it. And thank you to the girls who helped. We are a very good team,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
He began painting at age 6, leaving Mexico for the United States in the 1990s. Now a resident of Ellendale, his youngest daughter was born in Seaford.
A housepainter by trade, Mr. Rodriguez, 56, tried to work on the mural early in the morning to beat the heat. But that wasn’t always doable.
“Sometimes, it was like 100 degrees,” he said. “I paint houses for a living. I don’t call this a job. It’s something else. Yeah, I get paid. But I do this because I love art.”
Ms. Hernandez, who resides in Georgetown, stumbled upon the mural project after returning from a teaching stay in Mexico.
“My friend told me about this opportunity,” she said. “I was really excited that I became a part of this because I do want to give back to the community. I am a multimedia artist, so I just want to expand more on my technique.”
Ms. Lopez said she “happened to be with a friend, and we went for a ride, and we saw Gilberto on the ladder. This mural was, like, still all white. I’m like, ‘Whoa, do you need help?’ That’s how I got involved.”
She continued, “It’s my first mural I got to participate in. This is my first baby step into murals. Painting this mural brought me a lot (of) peace. It reminded (me), like, ‘Wow! This is why I love painting!’”
The hope is that the mural will serve as an inspiration to others, too.
“As a first-generation Mexican in America, … I didn’t really know much about my culture growing up, and I think a lot of people from Latino America should try their best to continue that tradition about learning about our ancestors, to continue on to the next generation,” Ms. Hernandez said.
“Our parents came here for a better life, and I think we need to honor our creativity in ourselves.”
Ms. Lopez agreed, saying, “I think it is very important for all of us to find that peace through any form of art, any form of creativity. This mural was also a way to honor our ancestors.”