In December 2017, the Eau Gallie Arts District Main Street program (EGAD) hosted its first ever Anti-Gravity Project which involved the public installation of 21 murals by local and international artists over the course of a week. One of the most popular murals was a wall of celebrities painted like block people by Jamie Meagher, an artist from Satellite Beach, FL. Last week during the repainting of the host building, it was painted over, which has resulted in an outcry from many on social media and questions such as “why was it removed?” and “what will you install instead?” We believe the following provides some context for what has occurred.
Mural art is uniquely dynamic. Although their inherently public and temporal nature inspire the artist and creates an exciting “catch it while you can” experience for its admirers, it also means that murals do not last forever. For example. if you drive past the famous (or infamous) “Shark” mural, you can see it is badly faded and will soon be substantially obscured by the current adjacent construction project, which is part of the exciting evolution of the district. The Shark could lose its vacant building host at any time due to renovations or reconstruction. Fading and the loss of building hosts is a natural part of the life cycle of a mural and muralists understand that. Nonetheless, as is well known by the many who have generously worked with EGAD on mural related activities, even though murals are temporary installations, EGAD does its best to responsibly curate the murals during their life in the district by promoting mural access and appreciation, including through mural tours, and treating them as integral part of EGAD. Of course, as reflected in the following description of EGAD and the mural installation process, because EGAD does not own the murals or the buildings on which they are installed, we cannot preserve the murals forever, even if that were physically feasible.
Prior to EGAD Main Street’s mural installations, the City of Melbourne did not have a formal mural policy. So, the City grew along with EGAD Main Street in defining the application process and guidelines. There were some growing pains, but, overall, we have worked very well together. Our mission is to collaborate with the City of Melbourne on revitalization efforts in EGAD and part of those efforts included what we coined the Outdoor Art Museum.
EGAD began the Outdoor Art Museum in 2011 with the installation of about five murals in an initiative we called Paint the Town. The shark mural was added in 2015. In 2017, the Anti-Gravity Project became our largest contribution to the Outdoor Art Museum and included both local and notable international muralists. It helped solidify EGAD as a recognized arts district. At present, the Outdoor Art Museum includes one sculpture, but two more sculptures will be installed this year. We are making great progress.
We started the Outdoor Art Museum as a tool for economic development—to raise awareness and attract visitors to EGAD. Communities across America use murals to encourage a sense of excitement among the citizens and promote reinvestment in downtown. Large and small, cities across America have turned empty walls into public canvases that serve to “activate” the neighborhood. They clearly can put a place on the map. In 2015, many people had never heard of the Eau Gallie Arts District. By early 2016, however, the shark mural garnered the cover of Florida Today providing significant recognition to the area. The shark is one of the most photographed places in Brevard County and is used in nearly every marketing video—and has become a very popular place for wedding photos (see The Eau G). Nobody skips the shark.
Murals, especially by notable artists with a following, can attract tourists. There is ample evidence in Florida alone to prove that murals can have social, cultural, and economic benefits, in addition to simply bringing joy to the viewer. Visit Florida, the state tourism office, believes in the value of mural installation so much that it manages a statewide Mural Trail website. https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/travel-ideas/florida-murals-trail-statewide-tour.html#central
Since EGAD does not own property, the process of installing a mural begins with identifying potential walls, seeking permission from the property owner, and then connecting the right artist with the right wall. EGAD secures the required City permits on behalf of the owner to install the murals and fundraises to compensate the muralists. After that, we promote the murals and offer a guided tour on the third Saturdays between October and May.
While we hoped the block mural would have stayed longer, we did get to enjoy it for many years. We look forward to installing future murals—with permission from the property owner, and with required city permitting--and using more local and international artists to expand our Outdoor Art Museum for the benefit of everyone.