NEW PORT RICHEY — If you've got some artwork in mind, the city's got the canvas.
Greater New Port Richey Main Street is reviving its "Main Street Benches Mural Project," seeking local artists to paint murals on the pink concrete benches at the city's gateway. It has been 10 years since the group sponsored its first bench beautification effort on the Main Street bridge, and much of the old artwork has chipped off and worn away.
When Beth Fregger took the reins of the Main Street group in January, reviving the bench mural program was one of her priorities.
"It was really a great thing in the past, so I am very excited to resurrect it and the goal is to keep it going," Fregger said. "It also fulfills one of my missions when I started, to not strictly be about parties and events at Main Street. We also want to be part of beatification and community efforts."
Fregger said the goal is to select artists to paint 16 of the 32 benches on the bridge in a motif of local flora or fauna, or a historic downtown theme. Next year more artists will be sought to paint the remaining benches.
Main Street is seeking submissions from adult artists as well as students at the Pasco County school district. Several artists have already submitted renderings. Artists must have their idea approved before they can paint a bench.
"We are hoping to have a 50/50 mix of adult artists and students," Fregger said.
The project is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Nov. 10 to coincide with Eco-Fest, a weekend-long event that focuses on ecology, conservation and sustainability awareness. Eco-Fest events during the weekend of Nov. 9-11 will include eco-tours, drum circle training, art shows, kayak runs and paddleboard demonstrations.
Main Street will clean and prep the benches prior to the painting and will provide supplies, though artists are encouraged to use supplies they are comfortable with as well. All of the benches are 24 inches wide, 55 inches long, and 18 inches high. The top surface of each bench is 54 inches by 18 inches, and murals should be designed to cover the entire bench.
After the painting, awards will be given in categories of Best Student, Best Adult and People's Choice.
The bench painting plan is generating a buzz in the local arts community, said Nancy Ciesla, director of the downtown nonprofit Progress Energy Art Gallery.
"I remember when the first paintings were done. It was such a great visual coming into the downtown. It just spoke art, that we have a real art community here in New Port Richey," Ciesla said.