APOPKA, Fla. – Black History Month focuses on telling the story of contributions from Black Americans. One young artist is telling that story in a visual way on murals across Central Florida.
If you live in Orange County, you’ve likely seen a piece of work from 19-year-old Delia Miller. She has two works in Apopka, one at Alonzo Williams Park and another at the Marathon gas station on the corner of Thompson and Votaw roads.
She also collaborated with a group of artists on the mural located on the side of the CityView Apartments next to Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando.
The ‘Still I Rise’ Mural is on the side of CityView Apartments in Downtown Orlando near Exploria Stadium and the Amway Center (Delia Miller)
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The mural is seven stories high and shows musicians Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles. They all once stayed at the Wells’ Built Hotel in Orange County, which provided a place to stay for African Americans during segregation. The mural also honors past community leaders, including Mercedes Clark, Dr. William Monroe Wells, Kattie Adams, Georgia Nell Woodley, Pinkie Wright Sanders, Mary Jane Johnson, Rubye Sanders and Theresa Walton.
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Miller was born and raised in Apopka. She said she first got interested in art in elementary school. During her senior year at Apopka High, she joined an after-school art club that was set to create a mural for the city. The mural project never happened, so Miller took things into her own hands.
“I took it upon myself to create a design and pitched it to my city’s mayor, which was later approved and funded,” Miller said.
Delia Miller working on the ‘Still I Rise’ mural in Downtown Orlando (Delia Miller)
Her design honors Alonzo Williams, Apopka’s first Black city commissioner. You can find it right outside Alonzo Williams Park in South Apopka.
“I had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Williams and talk to him and his brother about his story, which then all went into the inspiration for the mural’s subject matter. By the end of the school year I completed the mural, helped conduct the mural unveiling ceremony, and fostered amazing relationships with other Central Florida muralists who advised me along the way,” Miller said.
Delia Miller with Apopka city leaders after painting her Mural of Alonzo Williams (Delia Miller)
Right now, you can also find some of Miller’s paintings in Orlando City Hall’s Terrace Gallery until April 30. She said she really studied different aspects of Black history before working on her paintings.
“One of my works depicts a Pullman maid, the many Black women, most often former slaves, that worked for the railroads serving white women passengers and their children—giving manicures, styling hair and feeding kids alongside their male counterparts, the Pullman porters,” Miller said.
The mural of Alonzo Williams can be found outside of Alonzo Williams Park (Delia Miller)
Another one of her paintings shows an important part of military history.
“(It) depicts the Tuskegee Airmen, the Black military pilots who fought in World War II. The pilots shown in my work are atop a P-51C Mustang Red Tail.”
Delia Miller’s paintings will be in Orlando’s City Hall until April 30th (Delia Miller)
Miller said a number of hobbies actually inspire her artwork. Just over the summer, she started working toward becoming a commercial pilot.
“I am currently completing my private pilot license out of the Orlando Apopka Airport and have over 40 flight hours. My love for flying is sometimes indescribable, but the process has brought a new perspective to my art, most notably through my technical skill in sharpening my understanding of values, light, and shadow,” Miller said.
Delia Miller with her painting depicting Tuskegee Airmen (Delia Miller)
The young artist said she also recently learned how to drive stick shift, getting more into cars and learning jazz piano.
“My message to other young Black artists is to start creating,” Miller said. “Expressing your unique experiences and what makes up who you are through whatever medium you choose is unlike anything else. Begin developing a portfolio and do not be afraid to pitch your ideas to clients and to reach out to other local artists that inspire you.”
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