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Artist turns towering eyesore into an accolade

An arts group hopes its current project will encourage the city to consider decorating other landmarks.

Published April 29, 2005

A 130-foot Tampa eyesore has a new look thanks to the Outdoor Arts Foundation and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In honor of last year's Stanley Cup champions, Tampa artist Carl Cowden painted Hockey Bay, USA on a dormant oil storage tank at 39th Street and Adamo Drive.

The 10-by-28-foot mural is visible from Adamo and the 39th Street exit of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway. The tank, which looks like a water tower, was once used to store fuel to power machinery in nearby factories.

"One of the things that we've always aspired to do is to paint the water towers around town," said Jay Goulde, the foundation's executive director, calling the towers "community eyesores."

Lightning officials contacted Goulde several months ago about collaborating on a project that would be a visible reminder of the team's accomplishments.

"The oil tank initiative is but one way for us to demonstrate appreciation to our fans for their support both during our Stanley Cup run and now during the work stoppage," Lightning president Ron Campbell said in a press release.

The Lightning also plans to work with the foundation on a hockey-inspired mural downtown and a manatee sculpture in the likeness of a Lightning player.

The nonprofit arts group based in Safety Harbor works to beautify the community through privately funded outdoor art projects. Projects include murals, such as those on downtown office buildings, and painted fire hydrants and trash bins.

Goulde hopes the blue, black and white design on the oil tank will encourage the city of Tampa to approve murals on similar structures in the area. Most of the water towers are owned by the city and "there's a lot of red tape involved" in getting permits, he said.

The oil tank was privately owned, he said.

The artist began painting the tower April 18 and was expected to finish the job this week, Cowden said. High winds and problems leveling the lift delayed the project a few days. Cowden has created outdoor murals throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, including ones on the Oldsmar City Council chambers and the Safety Harbor fire station. This was his first from 130 feet off the ground.

Although the foundation has no definite plans for other water tower murals, Goulde has approached Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena about the idea.

"It's not a money issue, it's having people with enough foresight to see the value to the community." Goulde said. "It's really up to the elected officials to be open-minded enough to let us do it."

For information about the foundation, visit

[Last modified April 28, 2005, 08:33:09]

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