If you’re strolling the streets of Wynwood any time soon, prepare to see an FIU Panther bursting with color from blocks away.
Dubbed “Panther Pride,” this three-story-tall mural was painted by two-time art education grad Nate Dee ’02, MS ’08 in partnership with FIU. The Panther resides on the side of the FIU CARTA Mana Wynwood building, a new home for student learning, exhibitions, concerts and staged readings.
The mural is meant to draw attention to the new facility, which is supported by a public-private partnership between the College of Architecture, Communication + The Arts and art patron Moishe Mana. The building will house architectural design studios and the award-winning South Florida Media Network’s Wynwood News Desk.
“The mural has been getting a lot of re-posts on social media,” Dee says. “I wanted to do something that was really catchy. As I was painting, some people from out of town came by the wall and told me that my mural was the favorite of what they've seen."
In a Q&A with FIU News, Dee explains how he created the art. He also talks about his career.
What inspired you to take on this project?
I have kept up a great relationship with FIU since graduating. I love the friends I’ve made at FIU, and I still talk to a lot of them today.
Sometimes FIU asks me to come back and talk with students, and I’m happy to do it. I also had my first solo art show at the university. And the faculty and staff I had were great, especially within the art department.
Where did the idea for the Panther mural come from?
Oscar Negret — art director in FIU's Division of Strategic Communications, Government and External Affairs — reached out to me. The university wanted an alumnus or alumna who was deep into their art career to come back and paint for the new CARTA Mana Wynwood building.
The idea that Oscar had for the color scheme aligned with what I wanted. In my work, I like to incorporate habitat and nature, so I added some of that, and we came up with something that both of us were happy with.
How many murals have you painted before?
At this point, it’s countless. I’ve been painting murals for over eight years now. My first mural was in Wynwood during Art Basel. Another was for Tobacco Road, one of the first bars in Miami.
Do you have a favorite mural that you’ve done?
I can't choose one. I like them all for different reasons because they all represent different things. I did one in Mexico, which stood out because it was my first time out of the country. I also got to go back and paint where my family is from, Haiti. I loved that.
How have FIU art faculty influenced your career?
I’ve never had a teacher like Pip Brant. She showed me a love of painting. And she taught me that the art form is so much broader than I thought.
David Chang was also a great teacher. I had him first as an undergraduate. I thought he was a good artist, but when I went back and took classes with him in graduate school, I realized I needed to learn from him because of his traditional training and how good he is at taking what he knows and sharing it.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on?
Currently, I have a lot of private commission work. I just came off a year that was really busy. I was doing a lot of corporate stuff. I had a solo show. And I did some work with the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix.
Where did your love of art begin?
I’ve been into art since I was 6 or 7 years old. My parents had a family friend whose son was college-age, and he used to babysit my sisters and me. One of his jobs outside of school was editorial drawing for one of the local newspapers. When he watched us, my sisters would watch TV, but I was more interested in seeing him draw because he was so good.
I remember my parents dropping me off and me being so excited to go there so I could watch him start with a blank piece of paper and then begin creating whole new worlds. To me, it was the closest thing to magic. I wouldn’t leave the table, I would just sit there and watch him draw. He started giving me paper and pencil, and I would start to doodle. From there, he recommended to my parents that I take some art classes. I wouldn’t even say I was a talented artist as much as I had a love for it.