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    Dumpster duty: Bringing art to alleys

    The Outdoor Arts Foundation moves from decorating fiberglass turtles to trash bins.

    By LISA GREENE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 24, 2002


    photo
    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    Ekachai Wimonkeaw, using an airbrush, and Kumpa Tawornprom paint a whale scene Tuesday on a Dumpster behind Nature's Food Patch as part of a project by the Outdoor Arts Foundation.
    CLEARWATER -- The sun shone down on Kumpa Tawornprom as he stepped back to study his latest masterpiece.

    The blue paint sparkled, and the whales almost danced from the painting.

    Then a distinctive scent wafted delicately through the soft breeze -- the fragrance of ... garbage.

    Yes, garbage. It came from the Nature's Food Patch grocery store, so it was environmentally correct garbage, full of organic carrot pulp. But garbage, nonetheless.

    That's because Tawornprom's new painting is decorating the back of a Dumpster.

    The painting is the first in a campaign to decorate Dumpsters all over Clearwater, then city to city throughout the area.

    It's one of the first projects of the new Outdoor Arts Foundation, a group started a few months ago by Jay Goulde, who ran the Tampa Bay Tour of Turtles.

    The tour raised about $250,000 for various Tampa Bay charities by displaying painted fiberglass turtles around the area for nearly a year, then auctioning them.

    Now that the tour is over, Goulde is working on new plans for public art. The foundation coordinated putting a mural on the Park Tower Building in downtown Tampa and is working on plans for one in Clearwater and another in downtown Tampa. He's working on restoring pillars at the entrance to the Harbor Oaks neighborhood in Clearwater and on other private projects.

    But right now, the group is painting trash bins.

    "We're taking small steps now. ... But it's a way to take something inherently extremely ugly and at least dress it up a little," Goulde said.

    Tawornprom, who painted four turtles during the tour, painted a handful of Dumpsters in Safety Harbor. Goulde saw those and decided the foundation could expand the idea. The group is about to paint two more, this time in Hillsborough County, and hopes to sign up more businesses for painted Dumpsters around Tampa Bay.

    The whale Dumpster took Tawornprom and fellow artist Ekachai Wimonkeaw about three days to paint. The final product will be clear-coated to make it last longer, but Tawornprom said he's prepared for some nicks and scratches.

    "It's a Dumpster," he said. "It's going to get banged up."

    The economics of Dumpster decor: Each business pays $500 to $600 to get its trash bin painted. The foundation runs a sketch through the city for approval, keeps part of the fee -- in the case of Nature's Food Patch, $100 -- and the rest goes to the artist.

    Laurie Powers-Shamon, director of the store, said having the Dumpster painted is "quirky and fun." The hardest part, she said, wasn't deciding to paint the trash bin. It was choosing the design. Whales or hibiscus? Herons or ospreys?

    "I know Jay from the tour," she said. "Anything he does is usually great."

    Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst said he hopes more businesses sign up.

    "Obviously, they'll look a heck of a lot better than they currently do," Aungst said of the Dumpsters. "For a minimal investment, it'll certainly dress up their area."

    Goulde also has met with Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel to talk about possible projects. Seel has a prototype in her office: a fish painted in an explosion of Caribbean colors and mounted on a pole. Seel is talking with county staffers about where fish, paid for by private donors, could decorate the county. Possibilities include as mile markers for the Pinellas Trail, the future Florida Power trail or along Gulf Boulevard.

    "I'm amazed how quickly they've been able to garner support," Seel said of the foundation. "They've reached out to both sides of the bay to create vibrant outdoor art."

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