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Can restoration of Elizabeth Indianos' starburst in Tarpon Springs start mural renaissance?

TARPON SPRINGS

In the mid 1970s, a young graduate student of Greek American heritage came to Tarpon Springs to paint the town red — as well as a host of other vibrant colors.

As the city's artist-in-residence, and later its part-time cultural director, Elizabeth Indianos led efforts to create nearly a dozen wall paintings on the sides of public and private buildings in the community.

Some were carefully researched, large-scale depictions of the city's cultural heritage. Others were smaller graphics, such as the theatrical comedy and tragedy masks on the city's band shell in Craig Park.

Over the years, most of those images vanished as city crews and business owners painted over them.

But the recent restoration of a starburst mural on a recreation building overlooking Spring Bayou has buoyed Indianos' hopes for a renaissance of sorts.

"There was something valuable here and now it has disappeared," she said. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to bring back what we've lost?"

• • •

As America celebrated its bicentennial birthday in 1976, the National Endowment for the Arts doled out grants to artists to help develop the identity of unique communities.

Indianos was one of those grant recipients.

The first mural, painted in the late '70s on the side of a building at the corner of Athens and Dodecanese streets, paid homage to the city's Greek culture with images of traditional dancers, sponge divers and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.

Another large mural was painted on a building at the corner of Pinellas and Tarpon avenues. It defined the city's historical charm with flora, fauna and figures of Native Americans, Spanish conquistadors, northern European settlers and African-Americans.

In Craig Park, paintings on the sides of city buildings featured children and adults engaged in recreational activities.

Of those, only a small kite and starburst mural remain.

The starburst, originally painted in 1978, features a progression of colors from warm to cool. The idea was to bring a surge of energy to Spring Bayou.

It's been restored twice — once by Indianos in 1998 and recently by city staffers under her direction.

During her time as Tarpon's artist-in-residence, Indianos also staged gallery openings and developed other cultural events. But the murals were what gave Tarpon Springs its bragging rights.

"We were known around here as the city with the most murals," she said. "In a flash, you could see the whole history of Tarpon Springs or a portrayal of Greek heritage and mythology. People would line up on the street corner to take pictures with them."

• • •

Indianos went on to create a series of award-winning large-scale public art projects throughout Florida, Texas and North Carolina.

She teaches art classes at St. Petersburg College's Tarpon Springs campus and gives lectures on art around the country.

Recently she met with Marleen Gravitz, chair of the city's public arts committee, to discuss starting a new mural movement.

Gravitz plans to take the request to her committee.

"Right now we have no funding for public art, but we do anticipate some in the future," Gravitz said. "I've seen photos of the murals and they were beautiful. It's the committee's decision, not mine, but it would be lovely if we could do something."

>>To learn more

On the Web

To see more of the works of Elizabeth Indianos, visit www.elizabethindianos.com.

Can restoration of Elizabeth Indianos' starburst in Tarpon Springs start mural renaissance? 04/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 7, 2011 7:46pm]
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