By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
Artists make neighborhood drainage ditches worthy of admiration and a smile.
ST. PETERSBURG - Perhaps curious about the bright paint a two-legged creature swabbed on concrete, a hawk swooped down to look things over.
It wasn't the first time wild things had come to call, said artist Kell Holliman.
Last week Holliman was putting the finishing touches on a culvert mural on Burlington Avenue N. It's part of a Live Oaks Neighborhood Association project to shine up a series of drainage ditch culverts on Burlington between 58th and 52nd streets N.
The neighborhood received a city beautification grant to pay several artists for the project.
The murals were to have been dedicated Saturday.
Paul Vitale and Brian Ottson also worked on the project.
Weather held up some of the work, but working outdoors near what amounts to an urban creek has its advantages - assuming that one likes wildlife.
Holliman, 46, said a snake of unknown species crawled across his foot one day. It didn't want to leave, either. "It must have had a nest," he said.
Herons and egrets also stopped by, he said. Employing their trademark, slow-stepping gait, they sometimes would stalk close.
"They'd look at the koi, like, is that something I can eat? As long as I don't move real fast, they hang around," Holliman said.
Koi are Asian carp. Besides the fish, Holliman painted a scenic mural based on a sketch by the late Peter Bramley, who originally was set to paint it. Bramley, a founding art director of National Lampoon magazine, died in April.
"He was my mentor," Holliman said.
The murals are eye-catching, and as intended, splash considerable color on what otherwise would be a typical and drab series of culverts.
Last week, a Live Oaks resident drove past Holliman in a pickup.
"Looking good!" she yelled to him.
Holliman waved back. "I get that all the time," he said.
The project cost about $14,000.