Downtown Punta Gorda is getting a new Mural! The City’s Harborwalk is the site for the 31st mural from the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society. This one promises to be the most visited mural yet, with pedestrian traffic of over 2,000 people per day in season.
Appropriately named, “Tails from the Harbor,” the mural will depict the rich marine life of Charlotte Harbor, both past and present. The location presents one of the most unique wall challenges the Society has taken on to date. Situated underneath the bridge of southbound US 41, and along the Punta Gorda Harborwalk, the mural surface is actually the new retaining wall constructed after the walk was widened in 2017. It’s not the typical straight vertical wall used for the other murals in town, but angled with a 40 percent downward grade slope. It measures 76 feet in length and the total surface is just over 1,100 sq. ft. in size.
The idea for a mural at this unique location came from the City’s Urban Design planner Mitchell Austin. “I thought the new design of the retaining wall was crying out for a mural,” said Austin who mentioned it to Kelly Gaylord, President of the Society, in May 2017.
Having created murals that capture a slice of our area’s past over the past 24 years, the Mural Society accepted the challenge and showed the wall to artist Skip Dyrda, who was painting “Our First Firehouse” mural at the time. He looked at the wall, pondered for a bit and then said, “Let me sketch out some ideas.” The angle of the wall intrigued him. Later he confessed, “as soon as I saw the wall I knew immediately what I wanted to create.”
The design Dyrda developed captured the feel of viewing the marine life in the harbor through porthole windows. After researching the history of the kinds of marine life from our past, the design was adjusted to include the rich and diverse marine life, past and present, of our harbor and area waterways that originally supported the natives in this area for thousands of years and brought travelers to our shores over the past five hundred years. According to Kelly Gaylord, “the timing couldn’t be better to not only provide education about this history but also inspire conservation of our fragile marine environment.”
Putting a mural at this location required not only approval from the City but also approval from Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The FDOT application process was extensive and required professional assistance. Fortunately, Weiler Engineering answered the call, volunteering to complete the application process. They worked with FDOT for over a year to get approval. This mural would not have been possible without their tremendous donation of services.
During the FDOT application process, the Mural Society went to work on raising the funds needed to create the mural. The Society is a non-profit, 501c(3) organization managed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors and relies entirely on donations to create and maintain the murals. The support from the community was amazing and fundraising was completed in November 2018.
The City of Punta Gorda made repairs to the wall as well as cleaned and primed it, prepping it for the artist to begin painting on Jan. 8. It has truly been a community-wide effort to make this mural happen. The Mural Society is proud to be a part of this vibrant community and thanks everyone for their continued support of our mission to preserve our rich history through the beauty of mural art.
Stop by and meet the artist at the mural location (weather permitting) and watch this special mural come alive.