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Newest giant mural heralds vibrant plan for Central Arts District

They started with a small roller on an extension pole. White paint appeared against a beige backdrop at the top of the building.

First came the face, then the tie, then the arms. All of it drawn freehand.

A bucket truck arrived, and the painting began in earnest. The plan was for artists Derek Donnelly and Sebastian Coolidge to use the three-story canvas to create an eye-catching mural that would depict someone from the business world encountering the vibrant art and businesses in the Central Arts District.

A little over a week later, after a lot of sweat and a lot of spent spray paint cans, the wall was done. Even the shingles on top of the elevator box at the top are painted, said Florida Craftsmen gallery's executive director, Diane Shelly.

And she's still marveling at how they did it.

"They did it freehand. It's phenomenal that they're able to think that way," she said, noting that the businessman's watch has amazing proportion and nothing is off-balance. You can see the mural along Fifth Street and First Avenue N.

Shelly had originally envisioned a smaller mural for the back of the building, which had been "tagged" numerous times by graffiti artists. Members of the arts district had raised money through concerts and special events for the project, she said.

But then Regions Bank stepped in and contributed $2,500 to the larger project, she said. The artists, known for their other mural work, such as Donnelly's "Tribute to Woo" and Coolidge's "Freshly Squeezed" worked "practically as volunteers" on the project for Florida Craftsmen, a not-for-profit organization.

The mural is the newest among more than 20 in the Central Arts District, and Shelly said there are plans for more, as well as a walking tour.

"We have a few walls that we're looking at putting some big murals on," she said. "Businesses seem to be willing to fund it." She mentioned the Wig Villa wall and an architect firm's wall as being in the works for new murals. But she said murals on businesses have to walk a fine line between being a promotional sign (governed by city regulations) or a mural, which has a little more leeway.

She also said the arts district would be sending out a call for more artists willing to take on a large mural project so that the district could have as many diverse looks as possible.

Next steps include getting a list of all of the artists who painted a mural in the district and beginning work on a brochure for a script for the walking tour. Shelly said they plan to ask some of the artists themselves if they would like to be a docent for the tours, which would last about 20-25 minutes.

The price of the tour would be comparable to other walking tours, and she envisions trying to get restaurants or shops to offer a small discount for people who complete the tour.

Shelly is excited about the chance to make the Arts District a distinctive destination on par with the Beach Drive entertainment district or the beaches. She believes the murals will help bring people to support all of the local restaurants and businesses that call the area on Central between the 300 block and the 800 block home.

"The sheer scale is tremendous," she said. "It's going to really benefit the artists and make it a destination."

See the murals

Scroll through some of the murals that are in the Tampa Bay area and find out who the artist is. We've featured many from the Central Arts District, but there are also a few from other parts of the area, including some large ones in Tampa. Find it at tbtim.es/urbanmurals

Newest giant mural heralds vibrant plan for Central Arts District 05/29/14 [Last modified: Sunday, June 1, 2014 10:01am]

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