by Jeremy Morrison
After only a couple of times at the controls of the mechanical lift, artists Ashton Howard and Evan Levin are starting to get the hang of it. They maneuvered the lift’s bucket gingerly above the Jefferson Street sidewalk until they could reach out and touch the top level of the downtown parking garage.
“We are in the zone now,” Howard laughed.
It’s good they’re getting comfortable. The two artist will be spending a considerable amount of time suspended in the air over the next couple of months, as they intend to paint a giant mural covering the entire Jefferson-facing wall of the parking garage.
On Tuesday (Oct. 18), the artists began sketching out their plans. It’s the groundwork that must be done before a fuller mural takes shape during the heart of Foo Foo Fest.
In their lift bucket they have renderings of the completed mural and a sack of water-based acrylic paint.
“That’s gonna allow us to sketch quickly and put some nice clean lines on here,” Howard explained.
“We’ll have a lot of sketch lines of things we come back in and paint,” Levin added.
Once the bones of the mural have been laid in place, the actual painting will be done in conjunction with Foo Foo, which runs from Nov. 3 – 14 and encompasses a number of events occurring throughout Pensacola.
On Nov. 5, live music will accompany the painters as they work. Onlookers can relax on nearby bleachers and dine from food trucks slated for the event.
“When you really get to the art of it, that’s when the magic happens,” Levin said. “This thing is going to be really a blast to paint.”
When complete, the downtown parking garage mural will feature imagery of the area. Pelicans, a lighthouse, Tristan de Luna.
“Icons of Pensacola,” Howard said.
Both artists noted that they wanted to use color to energize the downtown cityscape. Like a bolt of lighting dancing within the surrounding world of brick and concrete.
“We want to do it in a really modern, exciting way,” Howard said. “Lots of color.”
“I think putting a splash of color in this area will just make everything more vibrant,” Levin said.
At night, the mural will be swept by LED lighting.
“The wash of those lights will just be incredible,” Howard said.
The mural will encompass about 3,000 square feet of space. It’s being funded by an $88,000 grant from Arts, Culture, Entertainment, Inc. (ACE), the organization that puts on Foo Foo Fest, and will take months to finish.
“We’d like to be done before the holidays,” Levin said.
During that time, the artists will be on display along with their work. Both have painted publicly, including joint projects during past Foo Foo festivals, and said they enjoyed the experience of having a constant audience as they worked in such a public and large scale forum.
“It’s fun. Sometimes you feel like a monkey on a stage, [but] it’s a really cool energy,” Howard said, noting how it seemed appropriate for their process to be presented so publicly, as the work’s canvas was itself intentionally public. “Murals, I think, have that energy anyway.”
Once the mural is complete, Howard said he hopes it is well received — “I’m hoping that people are excited and see the beauty in this” — to the point of inspiring similar projects in the future.
“I hope it opens up more opportunities for more murals,” the artist explained, envisioning a downtown area featuring a multitude of public art projects.
Levin looks forward to the impact the art will have on its surrounding cityscape. He said he wants people to enjoy the painting, as well as be positively impacted by the simple fact that the mural exists in place of what was until now a broad, blah-colored wall of a parking garage.
“Hopefully, it’s just something that creates a conversation, something that’s visually stimulating for them,” Levin said. “When you’re around public art, it just changes the environment. It just changes the mood. Hopefully, it brightens somebody’s day.”
To view the artwork of Ashton Howard, visit ashtonhoward.com.
To view the artwork of Evan Levin, visit evan-levin.com.
To learn more about Foo Foo Fest, visit foofoofest.com.