Thousands flock to honor, explore new Harriet Tubman mural in Cambridge

Posted at 11:01 AM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 00:14:11-04

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — If you let the people in Cambridge tell it, the city of a little more than 12,000 people has almost seen double that in the past few months.

It's because of a new mural that's now gone viral.

"I started doing sketches and one sketch led to another until finally, I hit one that just had a position and I thought 'oh my goodness.' That was it, that 'ah' moment where you suddenly realize I could have Harriet Tubman reaching out through the wall," Michael Rosato, the neighborhood artist who created the mural, said.

The mural takes visitors on a journey many have heard of but admitted they didn't know the length of the full story.

Rosato admits when he signed on to paint the courage, strength, and bravery of Harriet Tubman through a mural, there's a lens he couldn't see the image through, but for so many others, no matter the age, it's an instant monument.

"That moment, to me, is the most powerful of all – when one person decides to go and the other person has to project enough authority to say 'Trust me, we're going to make it,'" Rosato said, describing the image.

The near two-story painting brushed onto the facade of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center has now attracted people from around the world.

The Tromp L'Oeil, or three-dimensional optical illusion art, draws people to grab Harriet's hand.

The background shows off the natural beauty of Dorchester County with its loblolly pines and marshes, and then there's a boat symbolizing a tale of when Tubman boated her niece and another woman from Cambridge to Annapolis and on to freedom.

"The fact that people are willing to go off the beaten path, to go off of Route 50, to come all the way from Baltimore or Philadelphia or wherever, just to see this image and that we have so much more that we can offer them," William Jarmon, the Tubman Museum's curator, said.

Every day, Jarmon says he gets calls from just about everywhere wanting to check out the mural.

On a random Wednesday in June, visitors from Baltimore, Bowie, Philadelphia, and New York City came to check out the piece.

"It means you have to get out of your vehicle and you have to explore Dorchester County and Cambridge, Maryland. And also the feeling of being 'under ground.' You get that feeling when you walk through here," Jarmon said.

"She's who I wanted to see; [Tubman] is my girlfriend in my head," one retired police officer who came to check out the mural said jokingly.

From brush to brick, it took about two weeks to finish the mural, but before that there were months of prior planning and sketches.

"There are many people who are coming to this country for the same thing that she felt just trying to get from Maryland to Pennsylvania. We have people coming from all over the world who are seeking that type of freedom," Jarmon said.

A the artwork represents a bridge of hope, symbolizing not only a journey for freedom, but opportunity.

"This was an incredible moment in time where a woman was willing to sacrifice self, you know, for the people that wanted to take the hand. So if they can take away's perfect," Rosato said.

The mural is painted on the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in Cambridge.