A downtown public art wall project is aiming to refresh the City of Pure Water.
The City of Zephyrhills last month unveiled a vibrant, large-size mural on the south-facing wall of 5210 Seventh St., also home to Painted Pixie hair salon.
The mural, roughly 90 feet wide by 9 feet tall, is titled ‘Ocea,’ which means water goddess in Greek mythology.
The colorful work was completed by Lakeland-based artist Jonathan Sierra, along with assistant artist Fonz Eljaiek. The duo worked throughout May on the project, sometimes laboring 18-hour days, from early morning to midnight, weathering heat, wind and other conditions.
Highlighted by various shades of blue, the mural features a woman’s full face — Ocea — creating ripples in water as she lifts her head right above sea level. Other elements and imagery in the piece incorporate aquatic life, such as a manatee and bass, as well as the sun, a lake, forests and hills, spread across waves of blue.
It’s estimated a couple gallons of paint were used for the $5,000 piece, made possible through partnerships with the City of Zephyrhills, Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and Main Street Zephyrhills Inc.
Sierra’s proposal was selected from among 26 submissions to the mural design committee for the public art project.
Main Street Zephyrhills Inc.’s call for art simply asked for designs that represented Zephyrhills as “The City of Pure Water,” forcing respondents like Sierra to use their imagination and creativity in their drafts.
“When Zephyrhills pitched this project…it was a longshot, a shot in the dark,” Sierra said. “I put out a concept of what I thought resonated with what the theme was.”
In preparing his scope of work, Sierra researched what scientists have discovered about the water’s properties to gain a “deeper” grasp of where he wanted to go with the piece.
“We wanted to establish a wave, we wanted to make an impact that evoked a connection that humanity has with water,” Sierra explained of Ocea.
He added the mural otherwise serves to convey intentions of love, peace, unity, creatives and growth.
Besides discussing the meaning of the piece in detail, Sierra was complimentary of the Zephyrhills community, during the May 26 unveiling ceremony that drew dozens of residents and stakeholders.
“It has been so overwhelming with the love and support that I’ve experienced with the community here in Zephyrhills,” said Sierra, noting countless locals engaged with the artists during the mural journey.
“The people that came by and honked their horns, gave us a fist bump, gave us two thumbs up, have given us so much great feedback and love, and all of that gives us energy and momentum to keep moving on the job and continues to thrill us. It was really fulfilling, the entire process.”
Sierra acknowledged beforehand, that really all he knew about the city was the bottled-water brand, Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water.
“That’s what everyone usually knows, is the brand,” said Sierra, who runs a firm specializing in advertising, branding and creative designs. “When I started to unpack and find out, (I learned the city) had nothing to do with the water bottle, and the brand at all.”
The mural is a first in what Main Street Zephyrhills — which fosters business and family friendly events in the city’s historic downtown — hopes becomes a full series of public art displays throughout city limits.
Based on fundraising efforts, other murals could be coming to one of the fire rescue stations, as well as the Fraternal Order of Eagles building on Fifth Avenue, for instance.
“This is a special time for the City of Zephyrhills and Main Street association,” said Main Street Zephyrhills president Linda Kerns, during the ceremony.
“Art unites a community and this is our start. We’ll have small (art displays), we’ll have large, but it’s the opportunity for us all to coordinate, to collaborate and become a more solid community.”
The mural likewise helps “increase the visibility of Zephyrhills” to visitors and passers-by, Zephyrhills CRA director Gail Hamilton said.
The city official pointed out public artwork — murals, statues, sculptures — helps make a city memorable and stand out, referencing St. Petersburg, Winter Park, or Savannah, Georgia.
“It’s what makes a town a town, a city a city, and we’re missing that,” Hamilton said. “We want Zephyrhills to be out there. It’s our hometown and we want other people to enjoy our hometown, whether it’s a day, an afternoon, a lunchtime…”
The mural also should make Seventh Street and the surrounding downtown area more inviting for residents, Hamilton said, where they may be more inclined to discover local businesses and the walkability of the surrounding area. “It amazes me that people don’t know that we have a walkable downtown,” she said.
Sierra took similar views on the significance that public art brings to communities, small and large.
“It brings life to the current residents,” he said.
“It turns what used to be something that’d you’d ignore, walk past and not really pay attention to, but now, it creates a moment that people are inspired by.
“On top of that, it creates a destination spot for Zephyrhills. We can start to build a collection of these going forward with other artists, so that we can bring more people here and continue to grow.”
Meantime, Sierra wishes Ocea is a springboard for other amateur and professional artists to have their work on display throughout the small-town East Pasco municipality.
“I’m hopeful that it opens up opportunities for other artists,” he said. “I’m hopeful that it opens up the city to new eyes and the city continues to grow. There’s a lot more growth coming into the city, thousands of homes are being built, so I’m hoping this starts a wave of new art, a wave of new culture, a wave of community that lasts for ages.”
Main Street Zephyrhills is in the process of raising funds for an ongoing art series, with plans to launch a GoFundMe page for donations.
Visit MainStreetZephyrhills.org for more information.
Published June 16, 2021