Mural Project Breathes Life Into Eau Gallie
By Robert Hughes // April 17, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The Eau Gallie Arts District is thinking big. Big art, that is.
Plans are being made to have a dozen or more murals created in Eau Gallie’s small business area to the northeast of the intersection of U.S. 1 and Eau Gallie Boulevard’s eastbound lanes in Melbourne.
A committee has been busy planning the work, with a fundraiser coming in April.
The murals are far from just an art project.
“The object is to put Eau Gallie on the map, to make it a destination,” said Nancy Dillen, Eau Gallie muraql committee member. “ A goal is to improve the economic structure and attract people and businesses.
“When we started, we had a goal for 12 murals in two years,” Dillen said. “So far, we’ve gotten five in four months.”
The impetus for the mural idea came from a Main Street designation, which includes tax funds to help increase economic activity in the area.
A stumbling block, however, came from the city of Melbourne’s rules that effectively treated murals like signs, limiting them to cover only 10 percent of a storefront, for instance.
In the city’s efforts to avoid signs that could make the area uglier, the rules also prevented artwork that could help beautify it.
“They went through a restructuring of the code. Now they seem very receptive to the idea,” Dillen said. “They bent over backwards for us to get that pavilion (mural) done.”
The pavilion mural – on the back of a park bandstand – was the first one painted in the area.
Another committee member, Mike McCloskey, said he has struggled a lot with the “sign” rulings in different towns, as he makes a living painting storefronts.
“They consider artwork and signs to be the same, even if the art has no lettering,” McCloskey said. The battle over sign regulations became so frustrating for him, he almost moved away last year, “just to make a living.”
McCloskey said he’s happy he stayed around to see some city officials now “love” storefront art.
But McCloskey considers himself to be primarily a muralist.
He has painted many inside private homes as well as businesses.
Among his creations is the underwater scene inside The Monkey Bar, as well as the Guinness beer motif with the toucan adorning Meg O’Malley’s in Melbourne.
McCloskey’s mural work has come on much grander scales, including a six-story hotel in Virginia Beach, where the artist created an almost sky-high scene of jets screaming through the clouds.
And he’s excited about getting more creative scenes on businesses in Eau Gallie.
Dillen also is an artist who painted the mural on Indian River Potters’ Guild on Guava Avenue, but don’t expect her to do any more.
“The thing I didn’t like is, well… I’ve fallen off a ladder, so I won’t be doing any more murals,” she said.
Despite that statement, she admitted that mural creation is a lot of fun.
“I love working big because you can get into the flow of the work,” she said. “One thing that makes it easier is digital projection where you transfer the image you’ve sketched into a computer and project it onto the wall and work from there. It has to be done at night.
“What I did, I printed out an overall view and then broke it down into sections,” Dillen said. “I had help with the painting; it’s very physical. I worked 60 to 80 hours on it.”
One person who is very happy the city of Melbourne adjusted its sign rules to allow outdoor murals is Jeanette Drake, a part-owner of the Art Gallery in Viera.
Remembering a time recently when the city required the district to paint over an artist’s mural because of a code violation, Drake said Eau Gallie will definitely be improved with its mural project.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has said they love the murals,” she said. “I think they beautify the town, and anything you can do to increase the interest in the town is good.”