You know that relaxed, satisfied kind of tired you get after exerting yourself with an afternoon out, a fun physical activity, or a good, long walk? That’s what I experienced after the “good, long walk” and mental engagement of a Mural Walking Tour by the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society.
(Left: Close up of a palmetto bug on Tails from the Harbor by artist Skip Dyrda, who always adds details--and red string--to his murals. Click any photo to view a larger image.)
This fascinating 2-miles-in-2-hours walking and listening tour explores 11 of the 29 murals in beautiful Punta Gorda, and let me tell you, it’s more than worth the time. The $15 ticket price feels like a deal, as well!
The murals themselves are all beautifully painted (and maintained), but the stories behind them—both the stories they depict and the tidbits about the artists who painted them—were the main draw, for me.
Although I was (a bit sadly) disabused of the notion that Ponce de Leon was in Punta Gorda searching for the fountain of youth when he was hit by a Calusa arrow, other stories inspired some pleasant imaginings of the past: Teddy Roosevelt hunting for a record-breaking manta ray in Charlotte Harbor; the life of the astonishing George Brown, Florida’s first equal opportunity employer (click here for a time-lapse video of the creation of his mural); Bernice Andrews Russell (in the Ladies Remembered mural) purchasing the Blanchard House in 1976, setting the stage for the museum that finally opened in 2004; the Cow Hunters driving their herd down the middle of Marion Avenue, trampling flower beds; and so many more. This “Harborside Hometown” was built by some truly amazing people. Its history is full of intriguing surprises and this tour is a unique way to experience them.
(Right: The Life and Times of George Brown by Michael Vires.)
The murals are, of course, very creative from inception through completion, but the placement can be creative, as well. For instance, there are three fun surprises on the bay doors of Steve's Auto Shoppe on the corner of Tamiami Trail N. and Olympia and the wall that sports "Movie Memories" was built just for the mural.
(Left: Classics of the Past by Patrick Cleland.)
The Society’s book, Painting the Town: 25 Years of Murals, History, and the Stories Discovered Along the Way is available for purchase at Copperfish Books.
Tips and Specifics
The walking pace isn’t fast, but there’s a fair amount of standing while enjoying the stories, so bring your mobility aids or portable seats if you need to.
Be sure to bring some water (especially if the day is going to be warm), a hat and/or sunscreen and most definitely, a camera.
Arrive 15 minutes early to get fitted with your portable headset. These state-of-the-art listening devices allow everyone to hear the tour guide without issue. I was truly impressed with the sound quality and the range of the sets, and they’re comfortable, too!
If you want to know more and/or you’re not up to walking two miles, the Society also offers sit-down history sessions at Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association. Get “a small taste” at a one-hour free session, or attend their The History of Punta Gorda in its Murals class (attend one part only for $18 or both parts for $30) to get a full overview of 450+ years of history using all 29 murals as a guide.
When visiting our area, or if you live here, consider taking one of these tours. Fresh air, picturesque scenery, beautiful art, and interesting historical stories are a perfect way to spend a few hours getting to know—and appreciate—more about Punta Gorda.