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Published on - Nov. 23, 2011
Wedding Garden mural creator is a mover and a maker
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Heather Anderson has a life-long love of botanical gardens.
Many people don’t like drastic changes. They like the security that comes from always living in the same community, having the same job and having no major surprises in their lives. Moving to another part of the country and starting a new career is simply not for them.

Local Florida artist Heather Anderson has always had a different outlook on life. Over the years, Anderson has lived all over the United States and not allowed herself to get into a boring day-to-day routine.

That has given the Pinellas County resident and county volunteer an interesting and varied career. Anderson, who was born in Canada, first received a degree in finance from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. That was followed with a degree in computer science from Eastern Washington University.

For some that would be enough. But not for Anderson as she has also worked in real estate and attended the New York School of Interior Design, which gave her the opportunity to work with interior and exterior design. In her quest to try something new and different, she has also lived in Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey and in the Chicago area (twice) before moving here in 2010.

During her stay in New York, Anderson decided to try her hand as an artist, although at the time she never had any formal training, just a strong desire. This led her to take several classes in drawing and painting and really immerse herself in the subject full time.

Anderson eventually moved back to Illinois, but the cold temperatures and snow in the windy city made her decide to move again, this time to Clearwater. While she may have grown weary of the Midwest winter weather, one thing she had not tired of was being an artist.

Soon after moving to the Sunshine State, she decided to become a volunteer at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

“I have a life-long love for botanical gardens and a desire to give back to the community,” so becoming a volunteer was a natural.

When she started volunteering at the gardens, Anderson was disheartened to learn that the Wedding Garden fountains, a popular attraction, had been shut down. Due to the economic hard times the county was facing, it was deemed too costly to continue to operate and maintain. Perhaps when times got better again they could reopen the fountains, but for now they would remain boarded up. Viewing the fountains gave her the idea that something should be done with them. But what? Soon she had visions of a large glass mosaic with fish, frogs, lilies and the like to go around the outside of it.

Anderson faced one major obstacle: she had never done a glass mosaic before. That didn’t stop her from going ahead and creating the “Aquatic Reflections” glass mosaic that surrounds fountains. It would become as she calls it a “fun, feel good project.” Once she had the idea, Anderson was able to go through all the steps necessary to get approval from all the entities’ involved, including the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation, of which she is a member, and the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners.

Always resourceful, Anderson was also able to not only find several companies to help by donating materials and supplies, but also more than 30 volunteers to help construct the mosaic. Good fortune struck again as they were able to utilize part of a house in Largo owned by the 4-H, to work on and store the mosaics prior to being permanently installed at the gardens.

”It took three and a half months of working three hours a day, three days a week and at times resembled an efficient assembly line,” she said.

The project consisted of 84 2-by-4 foot sections, measuring a total of 170 feet long. Anderson was thrilled to see the finished project.

“It couldn’t have been done without the help of so many volunteers and businesses,” she said.

This project has led her to other volunteer projects in the area. Working with kids 9 to 13 years old from the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, she helped them create individual glass mosaic tiles for the Palm Gardens section of the botanical gardens.

She also has created mosaics for the USF Botanical Gardens. Anderson, always looking forward to her next endeavor, encourages others to volunteer their time and expertise to their community.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to try and tackle something new and challenging,” said Anderson. “The rewards are well worth it.”

Pinellas County volunteers can expect to make a difference in the life of their community, while exploring interests, sharing knowledge, assisting others and making friends. For more information, visit www.p­inell­ascou­nty.o­rg/vo­lunte­er, email or call 464-VIPS (8477).

Editor’s note: This article and photograph was provided by Pinellas County Communications.
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