Shepard Fairey Paints Mural for Perry J. Cohen Foundation
Artists at work | Photo Sandra Schulman

On a beautiful, breezy Monday, world famous street artist Shepard Fairey came to Jupiter Community High School to paint a specially designed mural which he has donated in support of the Perry J. Cohen Wetlands Laboratory and the Jupiter Environmental Research Field Study Academy (JERFSA) program at Jupiter Community High School.

Perry Cohen was the towheaded 14 year old son of Pamela Cohen and the stepson of Nick Korniloff, the powerhouse owners of Art Miami and the Palm Beach Contemporary Fair who was lost at sea in 2015. He was out fishing with a friend off Jupiter inlet when a storm blew in. The wrenching search and rescue that followed was one of the largest ever conducted, but the boys were never found.

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“He’s the first thing I think of every morning and the last thing every night,” an emotional Pamela Cohen said watching Fairey paint a huge portrait of her son based on a photo she took of him on a family trip to the Bahamas.

“Our hope is that this foundation and this teaching facility will help keep other kids safe. Perry was the kindest person I ever met, he loved the outdoors and he loved art,” she added.

The foundation built the amphitheater to face a large pond on the front of the school property which will have classes and demonstrations. A walking trail will go around the pond, which was filled with wading birds and egrets. The curved back wall contains Fairey’s mural and faces Military Trail.

“We had input on the mural,” Pamela says. “There is the Jupiter lighthouse and the sea, the portrait and birds.”

Shepard Fairey Paints Mural for Perry J. Cohen Foundation
Artist Shepard Fairey and his crew got a visit from “Broadway Joe,” a legendary former American football quarterback and actor. | Photo Sandra Schulman

Fairey added his gorgeous palette of blues and golds and ivory and his iconography of shooting light rays and blooming florals. He brought a crew of 3 guys with him, who set up scaffolds, a boom box, crates of spray paint and went to work, taping up paper template sections of the mural and filling in every section by hand. It’s a painstaking process, fascinating to watch, and a real lesson to the group of school kids who gathered during the day to observe. Most had seen the new documentary of Fairey now running on Hulu called Obey Giant that shows the rise of this skateboarding riding phenomenon, who jettisoned a portrait sticker of Andre the Giant into a global art empire.  Fairey now creates murals around the world, generously focusing on issues of the environment, politics and Native American rights. At 47, he has become the most successful street and fine artist aside from Banksy. Humble, dedicated and approachable, he arrived in South Florida on the heels of a huge new show of work in Los Angeles.

“I’m happy to do this,” he said. “As a father myself, this cause and this family means a lot to me.”

After a few hours work he opened up a box of stickers with his various art designs and gave them out to the eager crowd, signed a few and posed for pictures. As the day wore on the Mayor of Jupiter, Tod Wodraska, came by to see the  mural in progress and talk to the supporters.

“This is a wonderful thing,” he said. “To take a tragedy and turn it into a positive force and learning experience.”

Shepard Fairey Paints Mural for Perry J. Cohen Foundation
Artist Shepard Fairey, Perry Cohen’s parents, and Mayor of Jupiter, Tod Wodraska, came by to see the mural in progress and talk to the supporters. | Photo Sandra Schulman

Also stopping by to lend support and sign some benefit shirts that will be for sale was Cohen and Korniloff’s neighbor, football and entertainment star Joe Namath, who at 74 is still a spry, active presence. He had helped in the initial search in 2015, put up a generous six figure reward and has now continued to support the foundation. Sporting a foundation logo shirt, Namath shook hands and posed for photos.

Fairey has generously gifted his work of art to be utilized in all present and future fundraising efforts by the foundation and the JERFSA program. Students from JCHS Art, Graphic Design, Marketing and Agriculture classes are all involved in the fundraising efforts of the  Project. He has been a featured artist at previous Art Miami fairs and was happy to lend his considerable talents to help the foundation.

After about 6 hours the mural was done, the crew broke down the scaffolds and cleaned up the area. Fairey hung around for a while, speaking to some media and the kids and parents who had gathered.

“We have made plans for this mural and foundation to continue for the next 40 years,” Cohen told me. “After that our other children may continue it on.”

At this weeks Art Miami fair there will be a booth dedicated to the foundation, with art and others items for sale. The PJCF will also have a booth at the Palm Beach Contemporary Fair in January.

World-renowned artist Shepard Fairey Paints Mural for Perry J. Cohen Foundation in Jupiter. Perry Cohen was 14-years-old when he went missing two years ago.