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The Kat's meow

Massive mural of Ybor City artist's character to hang from Tampa building.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2003

TAMPA -- Barely a week after its official Tampa debut, the Trolley Kat's profile could be looking up. As in 11 stories up.

Efforts are under way to create a giant mural of the comic character, created by Ybor City-born artist and raconteur Ferdie Pacheco, and hang it from the Gold Bank Plaza in downtown Tampa.

It would be the third such downtown project brokered by the Outdoor Arts Foundation, a nonprofit organization that gathers funds for large outdoor art projects around the bay area.

Founder Jay Goulde said the building's owners, Chesapeake Atlantic Holdings, have approved the idea, as has Pacheco.

"Now we just need the funding for it," he said, adding that the project will cost $15,000.

The proposal calls for Pacheco to paint a new likeness of the Trolley Kat -- he's already done 150 of them -- then have a digitized photo of it reprinted on several vinyl mesh sheets. When connected, the sheets will create a 50- by 50-foot mural that will stretch from the 11th to the seventh story of the 12-story Gold Bank Plaza off N Ashley Drive. The mural would hang from the building's north facade for 12 to 18 months.

Turns out the Trolley Kat had an inside track with the Gold Bank project. When Goulde approached Chesapeake Atlantic about putting art on the building, Chesapeake president Greg Hughes immediately recommended his favorite artist.

"A lot," Hughes replies with a laugh when asked how many Pacheco paintings he owns. When asked if it's between 10 and 50, he replied, "Probably closer to the 50 than the 10," which includes the original Trolley Kat.

"I think a lot of people should be able to see his art," said Hughes. "His paintings are full of energy and color, and they have a story to tell."

The original muse for the Trolley Kat was Princess, a cat Pacheco and his wife, Luisita, adopted from their daughter five years ago. Princess was killed last Christmas Eve by roaming dogs outside the Pachecos' Miami home.

But she lives on in the Trolley Kat concept, which Pacheco has expanded to include T-shirts, prints, computer mouse pads, dolls and two children's books. One of them, Trolley Kat -- the Travels uses the character to promote Tampa history and the new TECO Line Streetcar System.

Two other giant murals sponsored by the Outdoor Arts Foundation are currently hanging on downtown highrises. Land of Flowers is on Park Tower, and Invocation of the Muse on the Franklin Exchange Building.

Lonnie Homenuk, executive vice president of Chesapeake Atlantic, said the company hopes raise enough money for the project within two months.

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