Mural Artist Rescued from FL Water Tower
Last week, first responders in Dunedin, Florida, rescued a mural artist from the water tower he was working on after the motor on his lift equipment failed. Tom Stovall is in the process of making over the one-million-gallon Curlew Water Tower next to Dunedin Golf Club.
The motor-powered pulley system Stovall uses to get up and down the structure was described as a contraption with a platform and a cage surrounding it. Stuck about 150 feet in the air, Stovall called for help around 1:30 p.m.
“The motor froze is the only explanation that I've got and it was getting electricity, you could hear the hum,” said Stovall in an interview.
A specialized team of first responders used a harness system to lower Stovall to the ground and got him down around 3:30 p.m. He was uninjured.
“This was really impressive. It happened very quickly, extremely efficiently. They had the whole traffic thing down. It just was it was impressive,” said Stovall.
Stovall, alongside partner Mark Winter, is working to paint the water tower after being selected for the mural work in 2020. Built in the 1960s, the water tower will feature designs promoting environmental and educational themes.
On one side of the tank, Stovall is painting a gopher tortoise named Henry after Caladesi Island settler and environmentalist Henry Scharrer. On the other side, he plans to later paint a sea turtle dubbed Sylvia after Dunedin oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle.
Stovall was awarded a $78,142 contract in September 2020, but was reportedly delayed due to design changes requested by city commissioners and Dunedin’s Arts and Culture Committee members. The tower was scheduled to be repainted at the time, and Paul Stanek, Director of Public Works, suggested using the money to create a work of public art on the structure.
Nine artists were reviewed before selecting Stovall for the project, who has previously worked on several water towers around Tampa Bay. According to reports, he began painting Henry in late March this year following prep work to ready the tower for the mural.
To paint the sea creatures, Stovall is using weather-resistant two-part epoxy paint. Winter mixes the paint on the ground, then hoists it up almost 150 feet in the air to Stovall using a pulley system, where he waits on scaffolding.
I spy...a turtle! ?? Have you seen the Curlew Water Tower lately? Artist Tom Stovall is working diligently to give live to our water tower.— City of Dunedin (@CityofDunedin) April 6, 2022
Video by Zach H. Kidd. pic.twitter.com/sdjdXtbVuc
Stovall said that while each tower he has worked on is different and has its issues, the “biggest factor” for this project is the wind. Additionally, the proximity to traffic on Curlew Road has proven a challenge.
“When you are working that close to traffic, gee whiz, you don’t want to have to take paint off a car,” Stovall said.
Work on Henry is reportedly nearing completion, and afterwards he plans to immediately begin painting Sylvia. Weather permitting, he anticipates completing the project by the end of the month.
“When you overcome the challenges, that is a really great feeling,” he said. “There is a wonderful enthusiasm when you conquer it.”