LAKE PLACID — Visitors viewing murals may find a couple on homes or buildings not listed on tourist maps.
They’re vignettes — slices of life not specifically tied to Lake Placid. One depicts two women playing cards, on the side of a house, visible from Spruce Avenue. Another unfinished mural, also on a house and across from the “card game,” shows an old west stagecoach robbery, faded on a yellow ochre background.
Another more recent mural depicts scenes from the New Testament of the Bible on the side of a store at 11 S. Main Ave.
They’re not listed among the other 46 or more murals in “The Murals of Lake Placid Florida.” That’s not an oversight. Those on the list speak specifically about the history, lakes, animals, lifestyle and entertainment of Lake Placid or Highlands County — a way to help build tourism and interest in Lake Placid.
The listed murals also had sponsors and get regular maintenance, badly needed in Florida sun, said Harriett Porter, co-founder of the Lake Placid Murals Society.
“Each mural has been painted over three to four times,” Porter said, “and repaired at least once.”
The Mural Society pays for that, she said, whether it’s cracking chipping, peeling or fading.
“We keep it up. You’ll never see them fade,” Porter said.
A new mural can cost up to $12,000 to sponsor — through local businesses — and use up to $1,000 in paint, Porter said. Then a vinyl coating — two coats — can cost $97 per gallon.
Porter said the Mural Society doesn’t have a “budget,” as such. An account stays solvent enough to maintain murals, the number of which has stayed below 50, thanks largely to building demolition.
“It seems the closer we get to 50, we lose one,” Porter said.
Maintenance funds come from sales of the tour guide through the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce. The Mural Society used to offer merchandise — cups and T-shirts — but they didn’t sell much, Porter said. Without large donations, the society can’t pay large sums for advertising or brochures, or merchandise that may not sell.
A Facebook page has photographs of the murals, but Porter needs someone to help with that, too.
“(Social media) is just not my thing,” Porter said.
Fortunately, other people — visitors and residents — have closed that social media gap, posting photos of their favorite walls. Official sponsored murals include “Cracker Trail Cattle Drive,” “Airboat,” “Prairie Dwellers,” “Caladium Fields,” “Turpentine Industry,” “Birding,” “Lake Placid Country Fair,” “Hometown News — Lake Placid Journal 1960,” “The Art of Clown School” and “Our Citrus Heritage.”
They speak to what lives near the town and how people there make a living.
Other titles like “Tropical State Bank Robbery,” “Stuck in Time,” “Richard Archbold & Archbold Biological Station,” “Eddie Mae Henderson — Sharing & Caring” and “The Rose Man” talk about historic events or notable local figures.
One — “Town of Murals — How it All Began” — tells how Porter and her late husband, Bob, came to be murals boosters. While on a cross-country motorcycle trip into Canada in 1992, they discovered Chemainus, British Columbia, a town revitalized by a series of 32 downtown murals. They brought that idea home and within a year had founded the Mural Society in Lake Placid.
Since then, the Mural Society has commissioned 47 murals of landscapes, wildlife, action scenes and portraits, telling the history and culture of Lake Placid, Highlands County and Central Florida. They’ve also commissioned and installed 146 other pieces of artwork throughout the town, including decorated benches and trash bins.
Porter said the Mural Society gets suggestions for murals all the time, and some qualify for sponsorship and a listing. Many don’t. Obviously, that doesn’t stop someone from putting a painting on a wall, especially if they have the time, the paint and the owner’s permission.