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HomeStudent volunteer creates work of art for Weeki Wachee Lifeguards
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Student volunteer creates work of art for Weeki Wachee Lifeguards

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The lifeguard office at Buccaneer Bay, the popular water park at Weeki Wachee Springs, now has come alive with the tropical radiance and nature-borne aura of its host park. This new blast of color came in the form of a mural freshly painted on an office wall. Even more amazingly, the mural’s artist is a student whose pay came in the form of student volunteer hours. 

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By way of this vibrant mural, 18-year-old Tyler Harris has captured the very essence of Weeki Wachee Springs. A golden-haired mermaid basks happily on the golden shores of the spring, alongside a cheerful manatee, against a tropically inspired backdrop of statuesque palm trees and glittering azure waters. Joining them are a patterned peacock, a stately gator, and fish of all varieties. Behind them linger other symbols of Weeki Wachee Springs, including a towering Buccaneer Bay water slide, rainbow-patterned beach umbrellas, and, of course, a clear blue sky gloriously overseen by a pure golden sun.

“I laid out the mural the way I did, because it was what I felt represented Weeki Wachee, and its environment as a whole,” said Harris, a lifelong art enthusiast and a 2021 graduate of Weeki Wachee High School. “Being an eco-dreamer, I like to show utopic and harmonic relations between humans and animals that creates an illustration or story. In this case, the human representation is shown through the mermaid. I put her as the main focus to not just reference the reason Weeki Wachee is so famous, but to represent the appreciation of the river’s ecosystem. All the animals have their part and I presented the mermaid as their guardian, a person to be trusted.”

Harris completed this mural in exchange for valuable volunteer hours. “All of my volunteer hours consisted of making my mural in the Lifeguard Shack. I was approached by a good friend one day at school, Timmy Murray, the Waterpark Manager at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, who was also a 2021 graduate like me,” said Harris. “He asked me if I wanted to put up some of my art in the Lifeguard Shack at Buccaneer Bay, and that if I did, he could get me some volunteer hours for possible scholarship opportunities. I said yes, because I thought it would give me some good experience for the field I’m wanting to go into as a free-lance artist.”

Harris put a great deal of time and planning into this tropically inspired artistic creation. “This piece took me roughly a few weeks to paint if I worked on it every day. I started it in May, and finished it in June. But again, I didn’t get to work on it every day, or every week. I had intervals, because of vacations and such.  So slowly but surely, I did one piece of it at a time. I’d have to say it is around 7 ft tall, and 9 ft wide. I used a semi-gloss enamel paint from Home Depot that can be used outdoors as well as indoors,” she said. 

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The mural’s completion marks another in a long line of artistic achievements for Tyler Harris, who stands among the top winners of U.S. Representative Daniel Webster’s (FL-11) 2021 Congressional Art Competition for Florida District 11, the Artistic Discovery Contest. Students from 12 schools across the district participated in this year’s competition, creating art to depict the theme of “America The Beautiful.” Harris took third place overall in the competition with ‘Worlds Above and Below’ which is a colorful portrait depicting numerous varieties of wildlife created with mixed media using watercolor, markers, and prisms colored pencils. Harris’ work now is displayed in the congressman’s Brooksville office.

This accomplished artist hosts an art channel on YouTube that boasts nearly 100,000 subscribers, and has won five art awards this year alone. She even accepts commissions for professionally achieved artwork, and maintains an active Instagram account at @tyger_the_zebra.

“I’ve always loved nature and being outdoors,” she said at the time of her Congressional Art Competition win. “There are so many beautiful natural and water resources here, and we need to preserve them.”

Weeki Wachee administrators are proud to count Harris’ mural among the many natural wonders at their park. They proudly posted a photo of the completed artwork on the park’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/WeekiWacheeSprings).

“We are very grateful to park volunteer Tyler Harris, who painted this beautiful mural of the park inside the offices at Buccaneer Bay. Well done, Tyler – well done! Thank you,” read the post.

 

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