Part 1: The Vero Beach Mural Project
For a city with a population of approximately 16,000, Vero Beach has a significant appreciation for the arts. Whether it’s catching a show at Riverside Theatre, visiting one of the many art galleries in the area, or appreciating the sculptures and monuments that capture Vero Beach’s history, there certainly isn’t a shortage of artistic talent in town.
Included in these artistic masterpieces are the numerous wall murals in downtown Vero Beach and throughout the city – all are uniquely designed and created, and each has a significant attention to detail that can truly only be appreciated by seeing in person.
Each mural has slowly evolved and and been carried out with individual care and thought devoted to them. Derek Gores, the Space Coast artist who created “(Dragon)Fly on a Wall,” pictured left in downtown Vero, is a creator of art that is exhibited worldwide. He has created pieces for the Kentucky Derby, Prada, and Playboy.
“Art’s most important jobs are self expression for the artist and viewer, but additionally art let’s a town tell its story one tangent at a time,” Gores explained. “And economically speaking, creative environments full of murals attract engaged crowds.”
Gores’ dragonfly mural is one of several murals that are part of the Vero Beach Mural Project, a not for profit initiative that began as a way to add artistic value to the downtown commercial district. Art attracts enthusiasts. Art gains attentions through photographs. Photographs get posted on social media and attract more interest.
“Paint is in fact the very least expensive way to transform a space,” Gores pointed out. His mural, which is actually a collage, was created from all sorts of recycled paper, billboard grade paper, and glue. He said it took him a couple of weeks including studio time and on-site installation.
It is located on the Firestone back wall next to the Kilted Mermaid, alongside several other murals that are a part of the project (pictured below)
The Kilted Mermaid, located at 1939 Old Dixie Highway, hosts a charity bar on the third Friday of each month in the alley between their establishment and Southern Social. The event is a way for community members to help fund the murals, whether they are there to contribute or there for enjoying a scenic and social Friday night atmosphere. The artists’ time, talent and materials are often compensated by community donations. A portion of the proceeds from the monthly event goes to the Vero Beach Mural Project.
Linda Moore, part owner of Kilted Mermaid, is passionate about art, and sees economic potential with creation of murals, hence her involvement in establishing and coordinating the nonprofit with raising funds for the artists and gaining city and statewide recognition and public interest.
“Art is great for economic development,” Moore said. “We have such a great downtown environment, and the murals compliment it. We opened Kilted Mermaid here because we saw the potential for it in the downtown area.” The can’t-miss mural on the wall of Kilted Mermaid facing Old Dixie Highway is what started her obsession with murals, Moore pointed out. Intricately painted by artist Nicole Salgar, the mermaid half of the mural is part of what helps brand the bar.
“The owners of Kilted Mermaid commissioned me to paint the mural and conspired on the vision they had for it,” Salgar explained. One side of the face in the mural is related to Irish mythology (as envisioned by Rick Moore), and the other side is the mermaid resemblance (as envisioned by Linda Moore).
“I found a way to merge the two by splitting the face and making each side speak to one another visually, while at the same time I kept true to the Moore’s vision,” Salgar said. The entire piece took Salgar five days to complete, with the help of an assistant. Again, to appreciate the full beauty of any of the murals in Vero Beach, seeing them a person is well worth the around-town trip.
On the walls in the alley behind Kilted Mermaid (the back of Firestone Tire), and across the street are an array of other murals, all part of the Vero Mural Art Project. Four students from Indian River Charter High School were chosen to paint the “Vero Beach” mural, which includes different highlights of Vero’s history, including the Driftwood Resort and Waldo’s, Historic Dodgertown Stadium, and the beaches.
Molly Phillips, one of the IRCHS students who was chosen for the mural project, has been involved with many community art projects throughout high school and loves the history of her hometown. She is now a freshman at the Savannah College for Art & Design (SCAD), where is she pursuing a degree in illustration.
“I can’t remember a time where I didn’t love or have the desire to create art,” Phillips said. Being chosen along with Kenneth Betancourt, Alexa Werner, and Hannah Lafferty, the quad of teen artists spent a month and a half working on the Vero Beach mural in their spare time, sometimes even at night. A fifth student, Thea Musolino, also volunteered to assist with the project. The young artists have their names painted with their signatures on their professional work.
“The most rewarding part of working on this mural was definitely being able to be a bigger part of the community,” Phillips shared. She said the enjoyment of working on a large-scale project with her classmates on a “professional” level is something that she will cherish always.
Wise and confident beyond her years, Molly’s soul-searching motivational outlook on life and behind her art is to inspire others to be more passionate about things in life and to seek what makes them happy. She has been creating and drawing art through stories and pictures for as long as she can remember.
“I hope people feel a little sparkle in their hearts, and gain the motivation to explore their own ability to create and imagine,” Phillips said when asked how she hopes her art impacts those who view it. “A lot of my personal works are products of my imagination for the most part, and I derive a lot of themes from my dreams or concepts that appear in my life a lot such as identity.”
Moore is constantly looking for ways to raise funds for the artistic projects she helps envision and create. Along with the charity bar each month, Moore also participates in local arts events, and has online giving options. Visit VeroMuralProject.org for more information, or follow on Instagram and Facebook.
The Vero Beach Mural Project is also currently teamed up with Alexis Peralta in the Indian River County Public Works stormwater education department to produce paintings over the drainage gutters in the Vero Beach area.
“There are hundreds of storm drains in the county, so our target for this first round is between 20 and 30 drains to get painted,” Moore said. The paintings will serve as a colorful reminder to not pollute or pour harmful liquids on the streets. The concept that “All water leads to the sea” is a theme for the ongoing project. All of the paint for the project is being donate by Crystal Ploszay, owner of Unicorn Epoxy, a local business that specializes in concrete flooring finishes.
Moore said she already has interest from local schools, organizations, the Environmental Learning Center, and Harbor Branch to be involved with the project. Individuals, businesses, and organizations are encouraged to apply as well. To submit an application, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading ‘stormwater drains’ and contact info, plus a sketch of the proposed artwork. If there is a specific stormdrain close to the business or organization one wants to paint, Moore advises to include that information as well.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Murals of Vero’s Story featuring artists Christopher Sweeney, George Colon, Dan Bennett, and artwork by Vero Beach Art Club, featured murals on Hazel House, Kountry Kitchen, and the Audubon House. Plus more!
If you have a mural that’s publicly located in Vero Beach, e-mail email@example.com. We’ve tried to incorporate all of the revitalizing works of arts in the Vero Beach area, however we want to be sure! Thanks for your participation, and look for the additional murals to be featured soon.