There is a rich vibrancy running through Melbourne’s downtown historic districts courtesy of a mural initiative facilitated by the Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD) and Melbourne Main Street programs. Kicked off by EGAD, and under the guidance of local artists and dedicated volunteers, the installation of over 15 murals serves to engage the community and drive economic growth. Murals promote tourism and differentiate one city or even one area of a city from another. Art and design is a proven component of revitalization, and using art as a placemaking tool fosters a sense of community ownership, something that is central to the mission and concept of Main Street.
The Melbourne Mural Project kicked off in 2015 and since then Melbourne Main Street has facilitated the paintings of six murals ranging from a beautiful blue jay perched on a glass of orange juice to a stealth Florida Tech panther prowling through land, sea and space on the side wall of the The Baby Patch. Downtown’s latest mural, a snook going after a fly on the side wall of Harry Goode’s Outdoor Shop, is a welcoming view for visitors coming off the causeway. Curated by well-known local artist and artist of the Florida Tech Mural, Christopher Maslow, the program has been instrumental in creating an ambiance in Downtown Melbourne and exhibiting the deep cultural and artistic roots that have shaped Melbourne overtime. A key partner in the project was Richard’s Paint of Palm Bay, “Without the support of Richard’s Paint, the mural project would not be possible. Their expertise, product and collaboration with local artists have fundamentally changed our Downtown environment,” said Jarin Eisenberg, Executive Director of Melbourne Main Street. The organization plans to continue the Melbourne Mural Project with support from Downtown business and property owners.
Eau Gallie Arts District
As an arts district, EGAD envisioned a public arts program as an “outdoor museum” experience, involving commissioned murals and sculpture visible to pedestrians and motorists, and locals and tourists alike. The murals show off the art district’s diverse personality. “Our murals are carefully curated to depict different styles and subjects in art from local history, street graffiti, to a more comic style to fantasy. Part of the strategy includes mixing local artists with a few well-known ringers from afar,” said Lisa Packard, Executive Director of EGAD. A prime example of that is the EGAD shark mural by Shark Toof, an artist from Los Angeles with an international following. Shark Toof painted his mural in one long week last December. He fell in love with the locals, who took him on tours all over town, and he left with a suitcase packed with gifts from his new friends. Shark Toof’s mural is visited and photographed daily by locals as well as folks who drive in specifically to see it, and then hashtag it online with #sharktoof and #egadmainstreet. “Not everyone loves the shark mural, but that is ok. Like any good art show, you want some pieces that challenge the viewer. No mural by itself ‘represents’ the city. The diversity of expression is what sparks creative energy and brings people to our district,” said Derek Gores, noted collage artist and current president of EGAD’s Board of Directors. EGAD often includes a “public” mural where the work is done by community volunteers. Everyone enjoys watching the transformation. Says Packard, “community murals really drive ownership. Where a blighted wall once stood is now not just a mural, but an experience and a memory and becomes part of our storytelling.” EGAD has murals by Nancy Dillen, GiGi, Christopher Maslow, Andrew Spear, Dave Thomas, Jean Filipski, Kyle Heinly, and more new art in the works.
EGAD’s murals have been generously supported by Lowe’s, United Rentals, and Pittsburgh Paints/PPG who have donated paint and cherry pickers for the tall murals. Public donations have been devoted to paying the artists.
What it Means to Melbourne
Though these mural programs are being facilitated by different programs, they share a common goal of driving revitalization through the vibrancy of art. As large companies continue to locate to Melbourne and expand, it is essential to build a sense of place that fosters resident attachment. “Melbourne’s burgeoning creative class of young entrepreneurs, artists and high-tech designers is becoming evident in the Downtown Melbourne and Eau Gallie Arts District. The recent completion of the two murals by prominent artists in Downtown Melbourne and the announcement of Groundswell’s high tech incubator project exemplifies the attraction of our urban areas to this important segment of Brevard County’s population. These amenities of public art also make a place interesting, helping attract new residents who desire something more unique than the planned development lifestyle in other areas of Brevard County,” said Doug Dombroski, Economic Development Manager for the City of Melbourne.
The Main Street programs are developing their respective districts in a way that stimulates personal and economic engagement. In both districts, the blank walls are becoming more than destinations for selfies and wedding photos; they also spur the reality that art and design excites people and affects how they feel about a place. Those interested in volunteering to help or sponsoring a mural in their favorite style can contact either organization through their websites, DowtownMelbourne.com or EauGallieArts.com