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HomeAt Home & BeyondWeeki Wachee Wonders and nostalgia

Weeki Wachee Wonders and nostalgia

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As folks enjoy Brooksville’s Multicultural Parade & Festival from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, Oct. 8, they also will enjoy the grand unveiling of the Weeki Wachee Wonders, the introduction of the Fall Mobile Mural project presented by Brooksville Main Street and the Hernando County Arts Council.

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This series of 28 new mobile murals will be unveiled in Hernando Park during the parade. Weeki Wachee Wonders is the theme of the 5th series of the Mobile Mural Project, a project that aims to enhance the value of downtown Brooksville, promote quality artwork, cause viewer interaction, provoke thought, entertain, and excite visitors through the work of public art. And this particular round will play a vital role in Brooksville Main Street’s inaugural Multicultural Festival, done in partnership with Hernando Hispanic Heritage.

“We are so excited to unveil the 5th round of our Mobile Mural Project! In this series, 28 new murals were chosen for the theme ‘Weeki Wachee Wonders.’ Hernando County is home to many natural treasures. Our preserves and parks have provided backdrops to many nostalgic films and have served as some of Florida’s oldest attractions for decades. Artists pay tribute to our beloved river and state park, using their imagination to share their creative and unique views and perceptions of this special place we find right here at home in Hernando County,” said Allisa Babor

In addition, this round of the mobile mural project is set to be unprecedented in size and scope.”This is going to be an epic exhibit,” said Natalie Kahler, Executive Director of Brooksville Main Street. “Not only is it by far the most murals we have ever commissioned, we have one that will be twice as large as any other we’ve ever done. We’re glad to be able to celebrate our county’s most famous asset – the Weeki Wachee Springs and their mermaids.”

In fact, Weeki Wachee Springs, the longtime home of live mermaid shows and nature-based attractions and now a state park, celebrated a milestone 75th anniversary this year. And now, the Springs have inspired the Fall Mobile Mural Project.

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On Oct. 8, the public will behold the full range of Weeki Wachee Wonder murals, sized 5’ x 15’, 6’ x 10’, and 5’ x7’, prepared with professional-grade outdoor acrylic paint.

“We hope everyone will come out on October 8th to meet and show support to the artists behind Brooksville Main Street’s fifth round of mobile murals!” said Jessica Knutila, Mobile Mural Coordinator for Brooksville Main Street. “Each artist has their own creative interpretation of what ‘Weeki Wachee Wonders’ means to them, but there is a certain nostalgia that surrounds this theme. There will be mermaids, manatees, peacocks, and all of the delights we’ve come to associate with the Weeki Wachee – as well as a few surprises!”

The artists of Weeki Wachee Wonders are an elite group of local muralists eager to exhibit their works and talents as a part of this latest mobile mural project.

“I’m a furniture artist. Functional art is what I like to call it,” said Jessica Denmark. “This is my 3rd round doing the mobile murals and I really enjoy creating bright colorful art. When they asked to come up with something that represented Weeki Wachee for us personally I couldn’t help but remember the amount of peacocks that were at the park. Their bright colors were perfect for this project.”

Joan “Johan” Casadiego said, “I love being involved in art projects for Hernando county. This Mural series theme is very exciting, I wanted to create a beautiful mythical piece to remind everyone of this special place we have in Weeki Wachee. I named it “Underwater Life.”

Beth Warmath is a debut artist in this round of Mobile Murals. “This is my first time painting a mini-mural and I love the idea. It was nice to paint in my home studio, roll it up, and easily transport. I’m looking forward to meeting the community and helping Brooksville add color to their city,” said Warmath. “The Brooksville Peacock is painted with spray cans, and exterior acrylic paint. I have a series of stained glass paintings which mix historical and present day objects using a tropical color palette. I’m currently working on two larger murals for the Largo Library butterfly garden and the City of Lakeland, Florida.”

Aside from finding inspiration in the legend of sirens, Christine Weeks was further inspired by perhaps the most famous male singing siren of all time. “The prompt asked if you had a memory of the park and I recalled when I went with my husband many years ago and noticed a photo of Elvis hanging. I thought that was pretty cool that our little town’s roadside attraction received a visit from the King. I submitted the idea of Elvis meets the mermaid on a six foot by ten foot canvas… I wanted to incorporate a portrait of Elvis with the beautiful scenery of the spring and of course a mermaid. The mermaid is a culmination of a few different mermaids I’ve seen but not one in particular. The title of the mural is “Follow that Dream.” I chose the name because Elvis was filming that movie when he came to visit the park back in July of 1961.”

Hilary Frambes enjoys painting murals, and portraits, as well as creating large-scale chalk murals for street painting festivals. Since moving to Florida last July, she has participated in several area festivals. Her work is inspired by current events, music, popular culture, and a connection to nature.

“I’m painting a double canvas mirrored mural that features a manatee, a mermaid, and a turtle. A lot of my work lately has involved the interconnectedness of nature. Humans have an essential responsibility to be good stewards of the earth and care for nature,” she said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Also in our increasingly digital world, we are losing our connection to nature and each other. Through this mural, I hope to illuminate the beauty of this place, honor the history of Weeki Wachee’s mermaids and give people a sense of respect and reverence for all living beings.”

Robin Stewart said she is “very excited to be a part of the 5th round of mobile murals that will be presented on October 8th. I chose to paint a water scene that depicts manatees and other creatures of the springs enjoying a beautiful summer day. What better way to celebrate the Multicultural Festival than to pay tribute to the natural beauty that has drawn so many, from such varying backgrounds. It’s been an honor to be part of this day. I am looking forward to seeing the other murals and meeting the local talent.”

The artist IZA presents a mobile mural named, “Weeki’s Wonders.” “For this piece I wanted to kind of tell a story of what goes on in Weeki Wachee when people aren’t around. Do the mermaids come out? Are there any other creatures roaming? I hope to showcase a vibrant perspective into that idea with my style,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be able to participate in this series, it’s been a major goal of mine since I was a kid to work on murals and this is finally my first shot. Hoping I can continue to elevate from here.”

Jessie Leasure presents viewers with a Place of Dreams. “My work highlights the natural beauty and attractions of the Weeki Wachee area. In this mural entitled “Place of Dreams,” Mother Nature breathes life into the butterfly’s wings. Her breath fractures through the wings into images of manatees, sunsets, and mermaids. As someone who has grown up nearby, these unique characteristics were a staple of childhood summers, so I wanted to feature them here. As an added bonus, the butterfly is the state butterfly of Florida, the Zebra Longwing,” she said.

Kimberly Dennis took a personal approach to her mural project. “The mural I’m painting is called ‘Mermaid Dreams’ and is a painting of a local business owner, Kari Holliday, and her daughter, Koral, back when Kari was a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs. Kari and her husband own the Aripeka Stone Crab Company in Aripeka,” she said. “At the State Park, children that get the privilege to go and watch the mermaid show often dream of being a mermaid themselves. This is a tribute to the dreams built and imaginations created at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park over the past 75 years.”

Other artists featured in Weeki Wachee Wonders are Bailey Gumienny, Carrie Phillips, Chelsea Glade, Chris Van Vooren, Clay Lint, Frankie Maher, Hilary Frambes, Jesse Simon, K Kerrigan, Julia Monteiro, Julia Rifino, Karen Governale, Kayla Witeck, Lynne Simone, Michael Nicholson, Nancy Barry, Renata Villemaire, Steven Benevides, Shannon Werner, and Victoria Maxim.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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