Since its inception, the Brooksville mural project has enchanted onlookers with its sentimental, beautifully painted images of the city's people, landmarks, locales, and institutions. A Saturday Stroll Down Old Brooksville Avenue. The Woman's Club History Mural. The Brooksville Common. The Fire and Police Murals. And via a special one-hour walking tour coordinated through the Hernando County Fine Arts Council and conducted by Jan Knowles, local historian and Arts Council Projects Coordinator, those interested can learn each of the stories behind these special murals--artworks that have in themselves become historical landmarks.
"While the murals and Jan's tours have always been a local treasure offered once or twice a year during Founders' Week, the Arts Council wanted to expand her offerings and make tours available for registering in advance," said Beth Putnam, vice-chairperson of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council. "We launched a special section on our website devoted to the tours in September 2019. Before COVID-19 forced us to put tours on hold, Jan had conducted eight tours. Two of those tours were part of a Road Scholar tour itinerary. We are thrilled to share the charm and history of Brooksville with more visitors."
Tours were paused in April, along with many public activities halted or postponed in the wake of COVID-19. Yet now, fans of art and history alike can take a walk through the places, times, and historical figures of Brooksville.
One-hour Brooksville mural and public art tours, sponsored by the Hernando County Fine Arts Council and featured on the Florida Mural Trail, will be offered the third Friday of the month, September–May, beginning September 18th. Tours begin and end at the Hernando County Courthouse steps, 20 North Main Street, Brooksville, and will run 10:30 am–11:30 am (Check-in will take place at 10:20 a.m.). Advanced registration is required for this tour, which is conducted for donations only.
Knowles, a co-chair of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council’s Art in the Park festival who was named Great Brooksvillian in 2014, is proud to return the mural tour to downtown Brooksville.
"I want people to learn and be able to see firsthand what a great treasure we have in our little town and what rich history comes from here," said Knowles. “We invite you to visit our historic downtown, learn the insider information on our murals, have a lovely luncheon at one of our excellent restaurants, and check out a shop or two.”
“Indeed,” says Knowles, “the mural tour itself is an experience steeped in tradition.”
"It was first conceived in 2000 by a group of people who wanted to bring new life into downtown Brooksville and murals were something everyone was interested in. They formed a committee of locals, historians, artists, business people, etc. and started seeking sponsors," she explained. Jan Knowles explained that Mary Alice Qurios was the curator of the art gallery in City Hall, she oversaw the project and determined the subjects would be Brooksville’s history. Knowles remarked about the murals, “Some of them were considered hidden treasures."
And Knowles was proud to present these hidden treasures to the public.
"I had recently retired from accounting and had decided to do some volunteer work, which ended up being at the Hernando Heritage Museum as a docent. So that started my love for the history of our area," said Knowles, who has held leadership positions at the Hernando Historical Museum, Friends of Chinsegut Hill, Historic Hernando Preservation Society, Brooksville Raid Re-enactment, Hernando Tourism Council, Hernando County Fair Association, Hernando County Fine Arts Council, Brooksville Mural Society, Brooksville Cemetery, Rails to Trails, and Main Street program. "In the late ’90s the Brooksville Mural Society formed and I joined them. I was then lucky enough to be involved in the historical background of the mural’s accuracy. They mean so much to me because each one of them tells a story of our wonderful, historical Brooksville and I get to share my love of this town with others."
In response to current global conditions, the tours will be conducted with full safety measures in place.
"We are lucky that our Mural tours are all outside, with the exception of the Uptown Art Gallery which is inside City Hall, so our distancing is very controllable, and people will be wearing masks if they choose," she said.
To supply additional information about each mural, QR codes on mural presentation plaques have been added to the tour. A minimum of 5 and a maximum of 15 participants are required for the tour to be conducted. All donations given will go to supporting the arts in Hernando County. For more information, to register by phone, or to schedule custom tours on other days, call Jan Knowles at 352-279-5182, or email [email protected] For more information about the murals, visit https://www.hernandoarts.org/the-murals.
"As part of getting ready for launching online registration, we added special signs with QR codes at each mural," said Putnam. "These codes allow visitors to use their smartphones to take self-guided tours of the murals at any time. These updates to the mural tours are literally helping put Brooksville on the map!"