2011 Bill Neal Award

Naples photographer Michelle Tricca, producer of Naples’ first public photography installation “A Face in the Crowd,” received the first Bill Neal award for public art, for her dynamic 1300-square foot mural produced as a photographic tribute to human diversity.

“A Face in the Crowd’” was pro­duced and gifted to the people of Naples by Tricca and created a buzz of interest and supporters among all races, ages and classes around town.

The project, con­sisting of nearly 1,000 portraits of Southwest Florida faces, was embraced by members of the community who walked in, drove by and even came on bicycles to become part of the mural.

 Tricca’s intent for displaying nearly 1,000 black-and-white anonymous portraits of mem­bers of the community was, she said, to force the viewer to look up close rather than gloss over an anonymous person, discouraging people from making assumptions about people based on their ap­pearance.

Tricca, a portrait photographer, told the Daily News when she was planning the mural that the she wanted to alter the perception of Naples as one of ethnic homogeneity. She said she wanted to represent the majority, as well as the minority.

“I do want the wealthy retirees on my wall, but I also want the dude that mows their lawn there,” Tricca told a reporter.

The mural had about 800 of its portraits finished when vandals defaced it on May 14. Despite the vandalism, Tricca pressed on to complete a second wall of portraits. The spray-painted vulgarity was removed by supportive locals.

Community outrage at the defacement brought donations to cover supplies and to helping Tricca repair and replace damaged and destroyed images, which will begin Monday.

The award was presented to Tricca by the Bayshore Redevelopment Advisory Board on Tuesday at the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Building, 4069 Bayshore Drive.

This is the first year for the Bill Neal award. Neal, who died in 2009, was a Naples activist who worked with many charitable efforts. He was instrumental in the creation of the Bayshore Municipal Service Taxing Unit and its Community Redevelopment Agency and was given the honorary title “Mayor of Bayshore.”