By Hannah J. Farrow, AliveTampaBay Correspondent
The brick paved roads in front of Flybar on North Franklin Street show the beautiful potential of Tampa’s city. On a sunny day, the rays leak between the green trees that line the road, creating a feeling of safety and awe. Take a walk just north of downtown, though, and the scenery vastly changes.
Cracked and overgrown sidewalks hold a smell of urine. Vacant lots and abandoned buildings follow one after the other. But to Tara Zanzig, those imperfections are what makes Tampa so beautiful.
About two years ago, Zanzig, 41, who’s a Florida native but calls Chicago home, gifted a mural on the backside of Franklin Street Fine Woodwork because she wanted to try her hand at it. The expression piece, titled “Untitled,” is of a young female with blues and purples swirling in the background; Carl Johnson of Franklin Woodwork gave her the O.K. and the Seminole Heights neighborhood loved it.
“It’s one thing to see the mural already done,” Johnson, 61, said. “When you watch the evolution, you have a different appreciation for the amount of work that goes into it.”
In August 2016, the Tampa Heights Civic Association invited Zanzig back to paint a mural called “Yellow Brick Row,” a reference to the yellow brick buildings on North Franklin Street that house the Rialto Theatre and surrounding businesses.
When Johnson heard of her return, he was excited.
“I want to see more public art, and I think Tampa is lacking in that area,” Johnson said. “And I think Tampa realizes that. I’ve lived here all my life, so I think I’m entitled to talk about Tampa, the good and bad. Tampa has a lot of great points but public art is not one of them.“
Zanzig collaborated with the board to create a mural that embodied the environment of the Row, using the Wizard of Oz’s yellow brick road as a play-on-theme.
“A big theme in my work is the community idea, utopian idea, living together and working together,” Zanzig said. Through a form called process art, Zanzig’s work is not focused on the end result, but the process of the formation of the piece, the “gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and moreover the initiation of actions and proceedings.”
She used each character to represent something specific about the Yellow Brick Row’s community.
The Tin Man represents Hidden Springs. For one, the brewery’s tanks look like the Tin Man’s body, but the business itself has a lot of heart. “Everyone was great and helped each other out,” Zanzig said. Hidden Springs was one of her main hangouts over the course of the weekend she spent painting.
The Lion represents the coffee culture as a whole, especially with Cafe Hey and Foundation on the Row. “Cafe Hey is a liberal place, no judgment, so in my mind the Lion also represents the LGBTQ community,” Zanzig said. She also incorporated the importance of fitness to the community, suggested by the Lion’s jogging suit.
Dorothy’s holding woodworking tools to represent Franklin Woodwork, where Dorothy’s line, “There’s no place like home,” resonates with Zanzig.
The Scarecrow represents the Salvation Army and embodies the homeless. Zanzig painted the mural during the weekend of the indie flea market and the grand opening of Foundation. “Different people were coming in, a lot of homeless, too, were walking around,” Zanzig said. “All stopped and talked to me. I was impressed with how open and genuine and appreciateive everyone was.”
Even though the details of the mural are worth bragging about (like how the Emerald City is Tampa’s cityscape), there’s more to it than meets the eye.
“The mural is a lot more than representative of the businesses,” Zanzig said. “It’s the mentality of people in that area.”
“Untitled” by Tara Zanzig. Photo by Hannah Farrow for AliveTampaBay.com