As I write this, we're amid a global pandemic. Most of the country is quarantining to some degree under orders referred to by various names like "Shelter in Place" and "Safer at Home." School is out, and parents suddenly find themselves working from home and playing teacher. Beaches are closed, as are some parks. We're desperate for ways to connect and find a sense of normalcy. To keep ourselves busy, educate the kids, and not lose our minds, we're living our lives virtually. We have Zoom meetings and FaceTime happy hours. We are utilizing every available free trial for streaming services to watch some new television shows. We're following our favorite bands on social media to see "live" concerts, and we're taking advantage of virtual museum tours.
But what if I told you there was a way to get some culture AND enjoy nature? After all, most of us can be out of the house for recreational activities if we adhere to guidelines for social distancing. With that in mind, why not take a day or two to enjoy some of Pinellas county's art that's on display outside?
1. Let's start in St. Petersburg and take a walking tour of downtown St. Pete's murals. My favorite has always been the You Are My Sunshine mural. I'd post a link to a pic here, but the whole point is that you get out and see it for yourself. Many of the murals are created for the SHINE St. Pete Mural Festival, which invites international, national, and local artists to add to the city's vibrant, colorful, and creative art scene. While the murals are all over the city, you'll see a bunch of them on Central Ave. Some are easy to spot from the street, but others you'll have to look for in corners or behind buildings, like the one behind Green Bench Brewing. Be sure to take lots of pics (some murals make for excellent selfie opportunities) and use the hashtag #shineonstpete Here is a list of some of the murals you can see but be forewarned that just as quickly and mysteriously as they pop up, you may go to see one only to find that it's gone.
2. Let's move on to Safety Harbor where you will find two opportunities to enjoy art in the park. There's Art Park, just north of the library, where you can enjoy the shade from old oak trees, including the Elf Tree that's estimated to be over 200 years old, while you view painted benches and picnic tables. Mullet Creek park also has an outdoor art gallery, as well as demonstration gardens. For more information on Safety Harbor parks, visit the city's homepage and explore the links.
3. We'll go west and head to Belleair where you'll find Doyle & Pat Wall Parks. These parks are located directly across the street from each other, and the flower pictured above is from one of these parks. While the area is small (the walking path is only 1/4-mile-long between both parks), there are many sculptures and painted birdhouses for you to enjoy. These parks are newer additions to Belleair. Previously, they had been empty spaces overgrown with trees and weeds, and before that they had been used as pastures. Animals weren't flocking to the spaces anymore, and neither were people. The parks lacked amenities and purpose, and so they were empty eyesores. Now, anytime we're in the area there's always a handful of people around, and it seems to be a popular spot to walk your dog.
4. Finally, let's end up in Dunedin. Here you can spend the day searching for citrus. In 2013, the city of Dunedin was preparing for its annual Orange Festival with a game called "Oranges of Dunedin: Show Us Your Citrus." Dunedin artist Steve Spathelf painted nearly 200 oranges on buildings before that year's fair to build anticipation. Since then, many more oranges have been painted with some showing up unexpectedly due to mystery artists painting them when nobody was looking. Spend the day looking for oranges on businesses and homes. Some are big, some are small, some are in plain sight, and some are more hidden. No matter what, whenever you see one, snap a pic and share it with your friends on your socials.
When you tire of that, start looking for the Murals for Mutts portraits on various buildings throughout the city. The project started on the side of Skip's Bar with three dogs and an invitation to donate money for animal welfare to get your furry baby painted, too. Now you'll find over a thousand dogs, some cats, and even a pig. As a nod to the city's dog-friendliness, there's a banner that says, "Welcome to Dogedin." The artist, Anna Hamilton Fields, also has murals on Dunedin House of Beer and in locations in St. Pete and Ybor City. Fun fact: Anna Hamilton Fields is friends with Steve Spathelf, and while the artists can and do paint other things, she's known as the "dog lady" while he's the "orange guy."