Providence-based artist Fu’una was selected as the finalist for a mural Mural at RFK Elementary School in fall 2022. “Dream Big / Work Hard” consists of seven murals along Nelson and Eaton Streets. The design is inspired by RFK Elementary’s four pillars: respect, safety, achievement, and responsibility.
Fu’una selected achievement as the most motivating, positive, and visual concept. Beginning with the school’s existing mascot – a dolphin – the artist created a cast of oceanic and celestial characters. Together the paintings illustrate what achievement can look like. On Nelson Street, a dolphin balances the earth on its nose while a cloud watches, impressed. In another panel, a dolphin wearing a space suit with a smiley face patch floats by Jupiter, who appears happy to have a rare visitor. Another panel shows two jellyfish merrily swimming through space. On Eaton Street near Jastram Street, a tiny red hermit crab is shown envisioning a big, chrome shell with integrated lighting, mechanical legs, and loudspeakers. Look further up, and you’ll see the message in text: “DREAM BIG.”
Anyone can dream big, but you need to put in the work if you want to achieve something. On Eaton Street, towards the corner of Nelson, three arctic terns carry a blue whale past the sunset. The sun itself peeks from behind a cloud to wonder at their accomplishment. Above this scene, another text panel reads: “WORK HARD.”
The two phrases in the piece’s title distill the broad idea of achievement. They are intended to inspire students as they enter the building each morning. Fu’una dedicates this mural to them and all of their biggest dreams.
Because of several site constraints, Fu’una and ACT determined that instead of painting directly on the surface of the proposed panels, the artist would paint on durable, weather-proof canvases that would be installed by full-service custom sign company Sign Design. The artist painted the murals at The Doorley Municipal Building in May of 2023, and they were installed in July 2023 after the end of the school year.
Fu’una is a muralist whose pop-realism style draws upon Fauvism, street art, and tattoo culture. Humans and animals are her primary subjects, with botanicals and natural elements often appearing. Her work alternates between playful and profound, and is most recognizable by her distinctive use of color. She has won an award for her portrait work, an award for her mural work, and three awards for her community contributions. Her training includes courses at Academy of Art College, Cornish College of the Arts, Rhode Island College, and Rhode Island School of Design. She has produced public art in five states and has collaborated with schools, businesses, and individuals. In her career as an arts administrator, Fu’una has a lengthy history of developing community-based arts programming, and a demonstrable commitment to advancing racial equity in the arts.