Shown is the mural on the side of the city’s Police Department building. Commissioners are hoping to add more murals to public buildings that that will beautifify blank walls and educates the public about the environment.

TREASURE ISLAND — An ecological mural program that would adorn walls of public buildings with creative images drew unanimous support from city commissioners during their first workshop of 2021.

However, staff now has to design a way to acquire grants and pay artists for their creative masterpieces.

Public art is a goal in the city’s Master Park Plan, Assistant Park Director Justin Tramble told commissioners at the Jan. 5 work session.

For several months Mariah Kaylor, a recent graduate of St Petersburg College’s Public Policy Program, worked with the Recreation Department to assess residents’ desire for the city to focus on providing public art that promotes ecological education, Tramble said.

“We think there is a lot of community support for it,” Tramble said.

Kaylor told commissioners the consensus of focus group workshops revealed that residents favor public eco-art. An ecological or eco-mural is an ecologically themed piece of art that beautifies blank walls and educates the public about environmental degradation. Results from the workshop sessions painted a picture of residents wanting themed murals, improved environmental education and local artist representation.

“A mural project with an ecological theme fulfills not only the resident’s wishes to promote environmental education, but it also promotes the local beach heritage with complementary art,” Kaylor said. The intention is to have a few murals placed over time on public buildings.

“Treasure Island is the sand-sculpture capital of Florida, and is already seen as an arts and cultural destination with the city’s signature Sanding Ovations event. A mural can expand on this recognition to further promote the city’s identity,” Kaylor said.

She suggested the concession stand wall at Rosselli Park is the ideal area for a first mural, because of its high visibility and popular location. Other possible locations include the Treasure Bay recreation facility and the community center at Treasure Island Park.

Murals range in price from $750-$1,800 with average cost being $1,200, Kaylor said. The city currently does not have funds budgeted for a mural project, but grant programs exist and fundraising is possible as well.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Commissioner Maribeth Wetzel. She said she spoke with the city manager about doing something to educate the public about sea turtles and providing more information, “because a lot of people don’t understand exactly what our Lights Out means.”

The city’s Lights Out campaign asks residents and visitors to prevent artificial light from shining toward the beach and sea turtle nests. When turtle hatchings are born, they are attracted to the Gulf of Mexico by following the light of the moon; artificial light confuses them and causes them to amble in the wrong direction toward streets.

Wetzel said Treasure Island can build on St. Petersburg’s popular mural campaign, which has drawn a lot of spectators. Murals are seen as photo opportunity locations.

Commissioner Saleene Partridge said “just having murals of sea turtles definitely brings it to the forefront in all our visitors’ minds, and they might seek out more information we provide on our beach.”

Partridge said the murals can also a be visual reminder “that we care about our wildlife, and this is really important to us … We’re called Treasure Island and we haven’t even begun to maximize the power in educating kids about our beaches and about wildlife, and I would like to see us move in that direction. This goes hand in hand with that.”

Tramble agreed the concession stand at Rosselli Park is an ideal venue for a mural. City staff suggested that site for the first mural location. The Treasure Bay recreation facility also has bare walls that would make a backdrop for a mural. Another possible location could be at the Community Center at TI Park because it has large, plain walls and a mural can be self-publicized by passing traffic.

“A mural is feasible at all three of these locations … The future of public art in Treasure Island could be more than murals as well,” Tramble explained. “Recently, a resident emailed a commissioner about the potential to have wire sculptures attached to streetlights and telephone poles. This type of art was newly installed earlier this month in Wilton Manors by Wilton Art. Wilton Art obtained the art, and commissioned the artist through public fundraising, grants, and donations. None of the funding for this project came from the city, but this project could be used as an example of commissioning one-of-a-kind art,” he said.

Another option for the city could be to enlist the Art Guild’s talents in the project, whether that is in fundraising or actual painting. The local Art Guild has voiced support for the mural project and is interested in helping in any way they can, he added.

City Manager Garry Brumback said some funding from the city could be allocated in the next budget cycle.