Wow! What a way to end our Florida trip.
Water for Life is the last wall Wyland painted in the US (and the last wall still in existence) and so much is notable about it. The first being that it’s just a wall. Not part of a building, just a long wall along a walkway.
Second is how the community has embraced it. In our search of walls we spend a lot of time wondering why the wall are where they are and how the community they are in feel about the walls. The neglect of some walls is so surprising to us while other walls seem so well maintained. In all the walls we have seen, we’ve never seen what appears to be a purpose built place for a Wyland wall. North Lauderdale appears to have built the entire area to serve as a showcase for the wall with the sidewalk, lanscaping and sinage all purpose built to show off the wall. It was so nice to see.
Third is how the mural actually integrates with it’s surrounding. For example, in one section the mural depicts the roots of the trees behind the wall. It’s very cool.
Lastly, I’ve never had such a challenge photographing a wall. It is several hundred feet long and there is just no way to do it justice in a photograph. This one just has to be seen in person.
Florida Marine Life was painted in 1998 and it makes me wonder how different the area might have been then. Today, there is a light rail train that blocks part of the wall and a huge parking garage that makes it difficult to see the wall unless you’re in the garage. It’s possible that when Wyland painted it neither were there but today the wall is difficult to see.
The top floor of the parking garage did give us a good vantage point though and the wall is in good shape with some fading.
It was a long drive from Sarasota to Key Largo but the alligators we saw in the Everglades made the drive worth it. “Keys to the Sea“ is a bit different from many of the other walls we’ve seen in that the mural is on all 4 sides of the building. It also contains a scuba diver which is very unusual. Maybe because the mural is on the walls of a dive shop or because Wyland is such an avid diver himself. Of course, the official record shows that the wall is on a Penske Truck Rental Facility building even though the building is now the Scuba-Fun Dive Shop.
The backside of this mural also shows Guy Harvey as a contributor, like on the Homosassa wall, though I saw no previous mention of that in the online documentation of the wall.
Key Largo, Florida (MM 99.2) 150 Feet Long x 45Feet High Dedicated February 12, 2007
Excerpt from @wylandfoundation on Instagram
In 2007, Wyland added a burst of color and life to a four story, four side building at mile marker 99.2 in the median of the Overseas Highway that bisects Key Largo. Given the name “Keys to the Seas,” it was Wyland’s 95th wall and dedicated by famed folk singer Arlo Guthrie under rainy skies. “ Filled with indigenous fish, dolphins, and corals, it celebrates one of the largest barrier reef ecosystems in the world.
Getting to Key West was a scenic drive but took longer than we expected. Finding the wall took a bit more time. There are times when we walk up to walls and are awed by them and times when we walk up and wonder just what the owners are doing. Unfortunately Florida’s Living Reef was the latter.
Looking at what is left of the wall, you get the feeling that this was a spectacular mural when Wyland painted it but now, as the building is being turned into a brew pub, it’s being chopped up and covered up. The mural covers 3 sides of the building and while one side is mostly intact the front has been significantly modified and covered up by palm trees. What a shame. I’m glad we got to see it when we did.
This wall is directly across the street from the wall in the KMart but definitely does not have the grandeur of Florida’s Radiant Reef. It appears that some modifications have taken place to the building the wall is on so that now the wall is in separate sections. This lead to us only being able to get our picture in front of part of the wall but below are some pictures of other sections of the wall.
This wall was painted in 1990 but retouched in 2000 so it is in great shape.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is hard to understand how Wyland selects the locations for his walls. I think that Florida’s Radiant Reef is my favorite wall to date and it is on the wall of a KMart! This wall has some of everything in it and is in great shape. It is big and visible from the main road so I’m sure a ton of people get to see it.
Guy Harvey also contributed to this wall.
After a fun day of driving down all the beaches from Clearwater to Sarasota we arrived at the Mote aquarium. We were close but not quite there as the Marine lab is across the street. Not only did we get to see Florida’s Dolphins but we had a sweet volunteer tell us about all the turtles they are saving. We even got to see one that is recovering from being struck from a propeller. Incredibly cute.
Manatee Sanctuary is at the Visitor Center for the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. This is right on Hwy 19 and about one mile from the entrance to the Park itself. The wall is outside of the park so you don’t have to pay admission to see it.
After seeing two walls that were more painting than mural it was nice to see a mural again. This one is in the harsh sunlight but is still in good shape. It is somewhat unique as it was done with Guy Harvey as a guest artist.
When walls are outdoors I can often use Google Street View to track them down and make sure they are still there but when they are in airports and hotels it is more of a ‘show up and see’ adventure as it was for First Born at the Renaissance. In this case it was right in the hotel lobby and could not have been easier to find. I really like the simplicity of First Born. This is a mural that would look wonderful at home.
It has been very interesting to see the difference in size of the each wall. From the truly gigantic Planet Ocean in Long Beach to the relatively small Manatees at the airport.
And now, we’re off to the west coast of Florida.
One of the benefits of our search for Wyland murals is that it takes us places we would not normally go. In this case, we headed to the last state that has many walls we have not seen so, we find ourselves in Florida. After spending the weekend in Minneapolis in 10 degree weather, the Florida climate makes us feel right at home.
Florida is a state with 11 walls so it took some planning to figure out how to see as many as possible in one trip. Manatees is in terminal A of the Orlando airport so it made sense to fly into there. I was worried that if the wall was behind security we might not be able to get to it (I doubted TSA would be as friendly as security at the Vancouver aquarium) but it it is in a public area.
Finding a wall in such a large public area is sometimes hard but in this case we found someone who knew where it was and had no trouble finding it. Being inside, Manatees is very well preserved and looks great. A great start to out trip!