Before moving down to Central Florida, my partner and I lived for a decade in Canada and spent many of those years working in the city of Toronto. We lived on the fringes of downtown but would walk the hour commute into the core each day for our jobs. On our route in, we would sometimes take a stroll through Rush Lane, a massive swath of vibrant street art known as Graffiti Alley. Spanning three city blocks and stretching half a mile, the alleyway is more than a series of ever changing murals, it represents a watershed moment in Toronto’s relationship with legalized street art. By legitimizing Graffiti Alley and then other limited locations in the early 2010s, Toronto ushered in a city-sanctioned program in charge of encouraging and nurturing legal street art, paving the way for many truly impressive revitalization projects. Canada’s largest city now boasts hundreds of mesmerizing murals throughout its many diverse neighborhoods on canvases as varied as traffic signal boxes, streetcar platforms, benches, laneways, roads and tall brick exteriors.
Street art now lives inside galleries and museums around the world more comfortably than perhaps ever before and its transformative nature can no longer be disregarded as merely an extension of graffiti or vandalism. The art form has spread globally over the past half century and has become encoded in the dynamics of our urban streetscapes, unfolding as a series of tensions that crisscross between art and action, legality and illegality, property rights and copyrights. The city of Sanford itself has deliberated on what guidelines are appropriate for street art and with special consideration for its significant inventory of historic buildings.
Walking past a beautiful mural improves our emotional wellbeing, it arouses our senses, lifts our mood and even catalyzes our interest and energy towards change. I believe with meaningful collaboration, consultation and curation, public art fosters community engagement, inclusion and civic pride. Murals add color and vitality to our surroundings, their beauty encourages biking and walking, they showcase the talent and creativity of our local artists and help bolster our network of arts organizations.
I’m excited and heartened to see all of the recent efforts underway to preserve and expand on Sanford’s current portfolio of works. With such a creative community already thriving here, murals will only strengthen its identity, solidarity and cohesion with the creation of more expressive symbols. And it has been shown time and again that high concentrations of artists can also create a feedback loop, where businesses are drawn to an area because of the availability of creative talent and that talent is consequently drawn to that area because of those businesses. Murals increase magnetism to a location, boost business, pedestrian traffic and social media driven tourism.
Below I’ve included five locations of my favourite Instagram-worthy works of public art within the city of Sanford. In these unsettling times of the COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to get outside (but stay away from people) and explore the great start we already have here today, ride your bike, take a walk or a drive to explore the art and to imagine new incredible canvases for the future.
The Stack on French
Address: 2109 South French Ave, Sanford FL
Artists: Jennifer Lindquist, Ysabel Flores and Jasmine Ramos
Funded with a grant from the Orlando Awesome Foundation and donations from Kickstarter, this micro-strip mall on 17/92 has been transformed into over 1500 square ft of mid-century inspired painted art.
Stokes Fish Market Sign
Address: Wop’s Hops Brewing, 417 S Sanford Ave, Sanford FL
Artist: Marcel Faille
Hand painted over 50 years ago, the Stokes Fish Market signs adorn both the North and South sides of what is now the Wop’s Hops Brewing microbrewery. The artist Marcel Faille was at that time one of Sanford’s most popular sign makers. His daughter, Suzanne is currently raising funds for their restoration and has partnered with the Sanford Historic Trust to start a t-shirt fundraiser.
Address: 1017 Historic Goldsboro Boulevard
Artists: Alijhae West, Joyce “Joy” Hayes, Marcellus Walker
This colorful mural brightens the exterior of the old Star Theater movie house building in Goldsboro and showcases the history of the second-oldest community founded by African-Americans in the United States.
Sanford City Hall Mural
Address: Sanford City Hall, 300 N Park Avenue, Sanford, FL
Artist: Kristi Hamby
Painted along the wall of the entrance of Sanford’s City Hall, Kristi Hamby’s bold and bright work incorporates themes from the city’s past industries and its enduring natural beauty. Kristi recently completed her latest mural in Sanford at the new Florida Craft Brewing microbrewery on Jewett Lane.
Read more about Kristi’s Sanford Mural
Superhero Painted Fences
Artist: Jeff Sonksen
Address: Corner of 11th street and South Elm Avenue, Sanford, FL
Jeff Sonksen’s pop-art inspired work is instantly recognisable on fence pickets all over Seminole County, including several installations in Sanford. Emboldened with a rebel spirit, Sonksen has crossed swords with city staff in the past and does not shy away from political activism in his work.