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Two Dunedin artists are behind graffiti mystery of oranges painted on buildings

DUNEDIN — A small sign posted near the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce entrance had a message Tuesday morning for the mystery muralists who drew oranges on the facades of several downtown businesses last week.

Please paint an orange here!

In most places, graffiti aren't welcome.

But in Dunedin, where the renderings created a buzz, everyone wants a piece — or a slice as the case may be — of the action.

"They're so beautiful," said chamber president Lynn Wargo.

For more than a week, the artists managed to conceal their identities from most. But on Tuesday, Steven Spathelf, a local muralist, and Marsha Goins, co-owner of Enchanted Branch in Dunedin, came clean and admitted they were the masterminds behind the drive-by fruitings.

"It was a well-known secret," Spathelf said.

Spathelf, 52, and Goins, 46, both of Dunedin, said they painted the oranges because they figured their work would bring attention to public art and help promote area commerce.

"We wanted to show the positive impact it could have," Spathelf said.

They picked oranges because of the fruit's history in the area.

Specific businesses weren't targeted, they say.

"Anyone with a smooth wall got one," Spathelf said.

Earlier this month, the two purchased $150 in paint. From 5 to 8 a.m. on April 13, they went to work, first sketching, then coloring in the oranges, each of which is about a foot wide and a foot high.

"People were walking by when we were doing it," Spathelf said. "They'd just look at us and say 'Good morning.' "

Owners and employees of seven downtown businesses noticed the oranges when they arrived at work.

Many liked them, and the oranges quickly became the talk of the town.

"They created such positive energy," Goins said.

Surveillance cameras at Casa Tina's restaurant caught two people performing the act at 5:23 a.m. That tape was turned over to authorities.

Goins told the St. Petersburg Times last week she knew nothing about the renderings. But after a deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office began asking questions, she decided to come forward. The two confessed their deeds to authorities on Monday.

"Nobody is filing charges," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said. "There aren't any victims."

Only, it would seem, admirers. Wargo included.

It was she who left the note for the muralists outside the chamber's building, hoping for an orange of her own.

That wish was granted Tuesday.

While Wargo was on the phone with the Times, the artists, who earlier painted four oranges near the entrance of Blur Nightclub at the owner's request, were adding an orange to the chamber's façade. Wargo spotted the two just as they were finishing and ran outside to hug them.

"It beautiful, just beautiful," Wargo said in a subsequent interview. "I'm thrilled to have it."

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

Two Dunedin artists are behind graffiti mystery of oranges painted on buildings 04/21/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 9:21pm]
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