DUNEDIN — Introducing Henry and Sylvia — a pair of turtles that will adorn a mural on the Curlew Water Tower.
City commissioners on Sept. 15 awarded St. Petersburg's Tom Stovall a $78,142 contract to create artwork on the 149-foot tower, which is at the southeast corner of Curlew Road and Bayshore Boulevard.
The rendition of a gopher tortoise is named after Henry Scharrer, a Swiss immigrant and nature lover who lived on Caladesi Island from 1892 to 1934. The sea turtle is named after Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer who was raised in Dunedin.
"The breakout turtle design, 'Henry and Silvia,' for the Curlew Road Water Tower is intended to provide Dunedin citizens a striking and meaningful environmental portrait that encourages protection and survival of sea tortoises and gopher turtles," city art consultant Elizabeth Brincklow said at the meeting.
Stovall has been painting murals most of his life, his resume says. His projects have been commissioned by cities, counties and corporations, such as the water tower in Seminole, a landmark that was removed in 2017.
He produced "Yellow Submarine," one of the earliest murals in St. Petersburg, Brincklow said.
Stovall's designs have environmental and education themes, such as promoting Florida reefs, bird habitats and marine life.
Earle returned to Dunedin last year to celebrate its designation as the home city for the Florida Gulf Coast Hope Spot. The city was singled out for its role in the global protection of sea turtles.
Earle said "we have learned that our existence is tied up with sea turtles and coral reefs. And if there is hope for them, there's hope for us," Brincklow said.
She spoke with Stovall, who said he would like to add the word "hope" to his design in between the turtle images.
The commission's selection of Stovall stems from the work of the city's Arts and Culture Advisory Committee Subcommitee for the Water Tower project. Jackie Nigro is chairwoman of the subcommittee, which met three times and reviewed nine proposals for the artwork and narrowed them down to four. They recommended that the "Henry and Sylvia" proposal be approved and the contract awarded to Stovall.
When Bricklow asked that he submit a design, Stovall said in an email Sept. 15 he was surprised and appreciative.
At first glance, he knew exactly the design he wanted to submit. “Home of Honeymoon Island,” printed on Dunedin’s letterhead, galvanized his thoughts and "Henry and Sylvia" were born.
"This morning, City of Dunedin’s confirmation was pure joy. I kept asking myself who I was going to notify first. Of course, it didn’t take long to realize, “Holy Moly, now I have get up there and actually paint it."
Commissioner Deborah Kynes was pleased that the artwork recognizes Scharrer and Earle and makes reference to "hope."
"I think we need a little hope now," she said. "It really does play to the total importance of being this gorgeous hope spot, and I think it's wonderful and I can't wait to see it."
Other commissioners had similar comments and complimented all staff members and others involved in the project.
"Only in Dunedin we have this wonderful habit of always remembering our history and the idea of helping keep our history alive and who we are," Commissioner Jeff Gow said. "I think that really strikes well with our identity and who we are."
Commissioner Heather Gracy said she loved the history aspect and how it was tied into the project.
"The feedback from my family was we really all around just adore this. And the story that it tells is very meaningful as well," she said.
Commissioner Moe Freaney said "this is so Dunedin."
"I think we do a lot in Dunedin actually to make that hope of environmental protection come true," she said. "It is great blend. I'm really excited about it."
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said this is the first big project city officials have worked on since they adopted a public arts master plan in December 2018.
"I’m so proud we implemented the master plan," Bujalski said. "And number two, art is meant to evoke thought and emotion and honor, time or place or person or history. And it's kind of meant to represent a community, depending on where it is. This piece does all of that and so much more."
The water tower is slated to be painted before the artwork project begins. City memos says that the artwork is to be done in the fall and winter with a dedication to follow.
"It was such a pleasure to watch this go through the process," City Manager Jennifer Bramley said.
The water tower was built in the 1960s to provide water to the Dunedin Golf Course community and properties near the Dunedin Causeway. Its used changed in the 1990s to hold reclaimed water and provide additional irrigation capacity for the golf course.
The tower can be seen as far away as Belcher Road on the east and is considered a landmark for boaters to the west.
City officials also got feedback from the public and other interested parties.
The project was presented Sept. 2 to the Dunedin Golf Club Course Board.
"The general feeling about the project by the Dunedin Golf Course Board was enthusiastic and we wish the project every success," wrote Mike Bowman, golf club board president.
Jeremy Reynolds, a resident, wrote he always wanted to hear this in a commission meeting: "Turtle power.