An artistic “jewel” brings color and unity to a downtown corridor
By Kim Henry
A midst the bustling streets, a gem awaits on Second Street – the resplendent mural adorning Bijou Park. Its vibrant depiction beckons passersby to pause, offering a glimpse into the power of collective creativity and communal spirit. Translating to "jewel" in French, the name "Bijou" fittingly encapsulates the essence of this park. Conceived by Florida-based artists Samantha and Jhonattan Arango, the mural was officially complete at the end of May and represents myriad stories.
Born in Cuba, Jhonattan’s artistic roots were nurtured within a creative family. His journey led him to the United States, where adapting to a new culture and language became paramount. Although sidelining his artistic inclinations, he spent five years as a medic in the US Navy. Eventually, a degree in graphic design set the stage for an unforeseen life trajectory.
Samantha, hailing from Virginia and Florida, was similarly immersed in the arts and inspired by nature's splendor. "I was always a little quirky," she recalls, fondly reminiscing about her affinity for poetry, writing, and nature. Knowing very little about the field, she too signed up for a degree in graphic design on a whim. Shortly after, Samantha and Jhonattan’s paths crossed, and they met at their college library. According to Samantha, she had a premonition about Jonatan, “and that was very weird because I wasn’t particularly thinking about marriage at all at the time,” she says, beaming at her now husband and father of their four-year-old son.
The couple continued to work together after successfully graduating as designers, while discovering the creative spark between them. Drawn to living a harmonious, healthy life, the Arangos decided to do a Vipassana retreat—a 10-day silent meditation course—which proved to be a transformative experience. It also heightened Samantha’s long-held fascination with the sacred symbolism of triangles, which have several spiritual meanings that represent the mind, body and spirit; birth, life and death; past, present and future; and so on.
Following that experience, the couple began creating stunning images made entirely out of different size triangles. Intrigued by the interconnectedness of all things, and with a passion for bringing people together in the spirit of community, inclusion and connection, the Arangos took their artform to the next level through large-scale murals that invite people into the creative process. The journey since has been abundant and full of beautiful moments with people of diverse ages, backgrounds and cultures coming together to paint their own triangles.
Jhonattan likened the process to "painting with numbers," elucidating the meticulous coordination involved in translating three-dimensional visions into tangible wall art. The Bijou Park Mural in Wilmington engaged around 500 participants, who painted triangles linked by a numerical system, enabling them to contribute their own unique touch.
Samantha's branding expertise complements Jhonattan's mathematical precision. She distills multifaceted concepts into singular images, encapsulating the project's essence. The Bijou Park Mural, a collaboration between the Arts Council of Wilmington, PNC Bank, and downtown developers, was selected from 34 submissions. Its originality and community engagement resonated deeply.
The mural's location was equally deliberate, acknowledging the wall's history as part of a theatre while celebrating Wilmington's local flora and fauna. Among the 35 murals created by the Arangos, Bijou Park stands as a testament to vibrant color and allure, prompting the relaxation of downtown mural restrictions.
These transformative projects celebrate the confluence of art and unity, embodying the true jewel of our Port City.