Ponce Inlet Marine Science Center

Murals at the Ponce Inlet Marine Science Center by Paul Barker

The best part about painting murals at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, Florida in 2002 was the staff of great people.

I enjoyed painting the long wall of sand dunes with sea oats and the mangrove swamp scenes, but the whale exhibit mural stumped me. In back of an actual whale skeleton sprawled across the floor, they wanted the image of a life-sized wale’s tail rising out of the sea. The problem was that the fire marshal had placed a bright red box with an emergency light on top, right in the middle of the sky blue wall. He wouldn’t hear of moving it or painting it and seemed to regard us as criminally irresponsible for even asking.

How could we disguise or camouflage it? Thinking out loud, I asked rhetorically, “What’s red in the middle of the ocean?” And a staffer spontaneously replied, “A channel buoy. And there’s one right out there.” She pointed.

They gave me binoculars, and I trotted across the road and out to the end of the nearest pier. There it was, bobbing about a half-mile out. I made some sketches while someone on the staff called the Coast Guard for overall dimensions. I painted a buoy beneath the red box and a seagull perched on top of it and, presto-chango! the red box was gone! The staff insisted that I paint some white drip down one side of the box to see if the fire marshal would object. I never heard the result. (See also my Mostly True Tale about this job, Whale of a Tail.)

Photos above and below are from the Center’s website and far better quality than my own photos of these murals.