Painting the Town

Local public murals tell stories, evoke ideas, and brighten everyone's day

From ancient cave-wall paintings to Renaissance frescoes to urban graffiti, wall art has been a part of the human experience. Over the past several decades, public art has proliferated all over the United States, particularly in big cities. In recent years, Florida has joined the trend, with cities and towns of all sizes participating.

Public murals are edifying, educational, inspiring—and free to view! Each one tells a story for visitors and longtime residents alike. Popular subjects include Florida’s history, including its pioneer days; its agricultural underpinnings; and its magnificent flora, fauna, and other natural assets.

Murals have been springing up in Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville, but also in rural Arcadia, Quincy, and Wauchula. Our neighboring towns of Melbourne, Fort Pierce, and Okeechobee have gotten in on the action, and Sebastian has recently launched its own public mural program.

No stranger to public art, Vero Beach is home to a plethora of public murals, and the number is growing, thanks in part to the Downtown Vero Beach Mural Project, set into motion in 2018.

Just 10 local murals are highlighted on the following pages. You will probably recognize a few and recall some of the other murals you’ve seen around town.

1405 Louisiana Ave., Sebastian, three walls, by Carol Makris
1405 Louisiana Ave., Sebastian, by Carol Makris

1405 Louisiana Ave., Sebastian, three walls

Artist: Carol Makris

When the members of First Presbyterian Church of Sebastian needed to beautify the exterior of their thrift shop earlier this year, they took to the internet and found Carol Makris of Artistic Brushworks. When she tried to pin them down as to what they wanted, they simply told her they wanted something colorful that would make people smile. She came up with the concept of a cheerful seaside cottage, and church leaders were delighted with her sketches. She worked on the project for six weeks, with help from some church volunteers, particularly Vickie Beyer, an experienced artist. The biggest challenge was avoiding the scorching sun in the April–May project. To that end, some fancy footwork kept Makris moving from spot to spot on this three-wall mural. “It made me very happy to bring a little joy to their community,” she says.

919 Azalea Lane, west wall, by Barbara Sharp

919 Azalea Lane, west wall

Artist: Barbara Sharp

Commissioned about 10 years ago by the owner of the Twig Shop and its building, which also houses four other shops, this full-wall mural took seasoned mural artist Barbara Sharp about a week to complete. Though the paint has faded a bit over the years, a careful look at the shopping bags reveals that the lady on the bench has been shopping at the five stores in that very building: the Twig Shop, Tusk, Lazy Daisy, Very Fitting, and Irish Treasures—the first three of which are still in business in the same building. The background pays homage to Harbor Island in The Bahamas, a place that reminds the building’s owner of Vero Beach, with its inviting character and friendly atmosphere.

1306 19th Place, south wall, by Brooke Malone

1306 19th Place, south wall

Artist: Brooke Malone

Artist Brooke Malone named it If They Are Lost, Who Are We? Against a rather colorful backdrop that includes oranges and mangroves is a stunning portrait of a Native American girl, rendered in shades of black, white, and gray.

1014 20th Place, west wall, by Barry Shapiro, Kristin Meeks, and Greg Ingerson

1014 20th Place, west wall

Artists: Barry Shapiro, Kristin Meeks, and Greg Ingerson

This colorful mural, which adorns the west wall of Mr. Smokes, is a whimsical tribute to our sunny town. A winking, smiling sun emits bright rays down to lively waves, and the word “Vero” is repeated nine times in parallel to the sun’s rays. This vibrant artwork was completed in February 2017. It is virtually impossible to see while driving, as it is on a west-facing wall of a building that sits on a one-way street—westbound.

1306 19th Place, south wall, by Arielle Chandonnet

1306 19th Place, south wall

Artist: Arielle Chandonnet

On the same wall as Malone’s mural, and painted about a year later, is an intriguing work by Massachusetts native and Vero Beach resident Arielle Chandonnet. This precise yet ethereal piece draws the viewer into an enchanted forest with billowing clouds above. Like others in the vicinity, it came about as part of the Downtown Vero Beach Mural Project.

1937 Old Dixie Hwy., east wall, by Nicole Salgar

1937 Old Dixie Hwy., east wall

Artist: Nicole Salgar

Guests entering the Kilted Mermaid are greeted by a fanciful mural of a woman whose face is characterized by two types of imagery evoked by the establishment’s name. The left side of her face has a mermaid theme, while the right side is inspired by Irish mythology. The only mural on this list that is situated completely above eye level, this piece took artist Nicole Salgar five days to complete.

1426 20th St., west wall  Artist: Barbara Sharp

1426 20th St., west wall

Artist: Barbara Sharp

Longtime Pipe Den owners Bob and Sue Marshbanks tapped Barbara Sharp to adorn the west wall of their downtown building with a mural depicting elements of Vero Beach’s history and life. Painted in 2018, the scene includes tropical foliage, hibiscus flowers in honor of the “Hibiscus City,” citrus groves and fruit as a tribute to our area’s strong citrus heritage, and a Seminole gentleman with a pipe—the mural is on the Pipe Den, after all. After Sue’s death in 2021, a second half was added to the mural. This time, Sharp painted a large royal poinciana tree with a heart on its trunk encircling the words “Sue Marshbanks 1952–2021.”

1937 Old Dixie Hwy., west wall  Artist: Michaela “Mishka” Bozkova

1937 Old Dixie Hwy., west wall

Artist: Michaela “Mishka” Bozkova

Finished in May of this year, the mural on the rear wall of the Kilted Mermaid is a cheerful riot of color. It is obvious that artist Mishka Bozkova was undaunted in the face of numerous protruding elements of the building that needed to be incorporated into her artwork: electrical boxes, meters, wiring, pipes, water faucets, and a vent.

2019 14th Ave., north wall, by Alexa Werner, Hannah Lafferty, Kenneth Betancourt, and Molly Phillips.jpg

2019 14th Ave., north wall, by Alexa Werner, Hannah Lafferty, Kenneth Betancourt, and Molly Phillips

2019 14th Ave., north wall

Artists: Alexa Werner, Hannah Lafferty, Kenneth Betancourt, and Molly Phillips

For six weeks in January and February 2019, four talented Indian River Charter High School students kept their paintbrushes moving whenever they had any spare time. The result is a veritable history book on Vero Beach. It’s all there: the art galleries, the theaters, McKee Botanical Garden, the Driftwood Inn, Memorial Island, the historic railway station, and Dodgertown. The natural beauty is not overlooked, either: the lagoon, the manatees, the flowers and greenery, the dolphins, and the sea turtles. And this description just scratches the surface. If you look carefully, you’ll even learn that Vero Beach is at Exit 147 on I-95!

1882 Old Dixie Hwy., north wall  Artist: Katie Gastley

1882 Old Dixie Hwy., north wall

Artist: Katie Gastley

When Tiffani Buckley and Kirsten Kennedy were preparing to open their interior design studio, Hazel House, in late 2018, they wanted to make their mark, so to speak, on the building so that everyone would know there was a new business on the block. They did not have to look far for an artist, as they were friends with Katie Gastley and were fans of her work. Around the same time, the Downtown Vero Beach Mural Project was just getting underway, so everything came together perfectly. They told Gastley they wanted a botanical theme and trusted her to do the rest. It took just a few days; the mural, bold but not overdone, was ready for Hazel House’s opening on December 1, 2018.

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