ANNA MARIA – Featuring an image of a giant sea turtle, a new seascape-themed mural now graces an exterior wall of the old post office plaza in Anna Maria.
Located near the intersection of Gulf Drive and Spring Avenue, the mural, painted by Lakeland-based studio and mural artist Gillian Fazio, covers the rear walls of the plaza spaces leased to Anna Maria Rocks and Anna Maria Life vacation rentals.
Replacing a previous shark-themed mural, the new mural features a giant sea turtle in a seascape that includes coral reefs, tropical fish, starfish, a giant clam and the hull of a small boat that represents the human presence on local waters.
Ed Chiles owns the plaza, located just a short walk from the Chiles Group-owned Sandbar restaurant at the end of Spring Avenue. The Chiles Group commissioned the mural after Chiles made his team aware of Fazio’s talents.
“My daughter, Christin Masters, introduced me to her work. I saw the murals she was doing over in Lakeland and Polk County and I was like, ‘Wow, I would love to have one of those someday.’ I sent that on to our people, but I was actually surprised when I found out we were having one done. I saw the mockup and I was really impressed. It’s a nice addition to the Island,” Chiles said.
Fazio started painting the mural on Tuesday, Oct. 25 and finished it late in the day on Thursday, Nov. 4.
“The Chiles Group happened to be the perfect client and collaborator to work on this with. I was talking to Ed Chiles’ daughter, Christin, and she asked why the Chiles Group didn’t have any of my artwork,” Fazio said as she completed the mural Thursday afternoon.
“It’s inspired by healthy waters, the surroundings here and the Chiles Group’s marine reclamation projects. We also wanted to highlight our sea life and the beautiful sunsets the Sandbar is famous for,” Fazio said.
“I designed everything on Photoshop and then we went back and forth with the Chiles Group and made small adjustments until everybody loved what we ended up with,” she explained.
Using Sherman Williams resilience level paint made to withstand the sun, heat and other elements, Fazio first used a sprayer to paint the bottom half of the wall blue and the top half orange.
“I started with the base colors and slowly added in more details,” she said, noting that she sketched the male turtle on the wall before painting it.
Before putting some final touches on the turtle’s gullet Thursday afternoon, Fazio signed the bottom left-hand corner of the mural, signifying the project was essentially finished. While adding those final strokes to the turtle’s gullet, two young visitors from Holly, Michigan – Josie and Daphne Schneider – stopped to admire her work as they passed by.
Fazio shared her thoughts on the attraction of murals.
“They’re bright and beautiful and not just a plain old wall. I love murals because they bring communities together and give everybody a sense of ownership of their mural wall. When people come to Anna Maria you can bring them to this wall. It becomes a thing to do as well as something nice to look at. The hope is that this new mural becomes a popular photo opportunity for visitors and we’ll come up with a name for the turtle soon,” she said.
Fazio has worked as a professional muralist since graduating from the University of Florida in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in fine art. Some of her past work was commissioned by local businesses and government agencies in and around Lakeland and Lake Wales.
“I’m from Lakeland and most of my work is in Lakeland, Tampa and the surrounding areas of Central Florida. I have some massive walls over there that are inspired by the citrus industry. Some of them are two stories high and a hundred feet long. This one is 10 feet tall and 63 feet long. I also do smaller murals and selfie walls that provide photo ops for businesses,” she said.
The Chiles Group mural is her first on Anna Maria Island but she has family ties to the city and the Island and hopes to do more work here.
“My grandparents had a place on White Avenue before they passed away. A lot of people from Lakeland come to Anna Maria. I’m happy to be here and I hope to be back soon,” she said.
Fazio will paint her next mural for an appliance showroom in Lakeland.
“They want an engagement wall for their office,” she said.
Fazio’s work can be viewed on Instagram and at www.gfazioart.com. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com.