A native Floridian whose paintings grace the Smithsonian Institution, Christopher Still knows a thing or two about art – and boy, does it abound in Clearwater Beach.
He went to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, worked with artists at the Vatican, and apprenticed in Florence, Italy. So we think it’s safe to say that Dunedin native Christopher Still knows a thing or two about art – as much as he does about the Clearwater area of Florida of which he loves to capture in his own paintings (Pier 60 is always a popular subject). He’s also the artist responsible for much of the aesthetic at Opal Sands Resort, having had hand-selected and worked with other Florida artists to create custom installations. Here, he helps us highlight some of the most unusual and intriguing art around Clearwater Beach, which mandates that at least one percent of capital improvement projects go toward the creation of public art.
“Accumulate” by Aaron Stephan
Fire & Nice
Forget the clichés about Dalmatians, lasagna, and fire poles. In the fire stations of Clearwater, you’ll find public art pieces. In the lobby of Fire Station 45, artist Aaron Stephan has assembled hundreds of glass spheres and multi-colored fire hoses, called “Accumulate” as a tribute to the practice of drip-drying fire hoses after a call. At Fire Station 48, meanwhile, sculptor Christopher Fennell has twisted decommissioned fire ladders into “Ladder Fire,” which represents a torch and honors fallen firefighters.
And Now You Know
Chances are you don’t go to Clearwater Beach to visit the library, but there’s a good reason to set aside your beach read and head to East Community Library. It’s called “Reaching for Knowledge,” and it’s a welded aluminum and enamel sculpture evoking three people holding a stack of books. Admire the piece, which took artists Gus and Lina Ocamposilva four months to build and one day to install, from three different angles.
“Beneath the Waves” by Christopher Still
Above and Beyond
“The paintings at Sandpearl Resort are special because the above-water painting, ‘Return to Picnic Island’ [behind the guest check-in desk, with the intriguing illusion of a frame on the canvas] really captures the story of the Scharrer family that homesteaded nearby Caladesi Island,” says Still. “Caladesi Island State Park is a short drive from Clearwater Beach and you can take a ferry over to the island for a great natural Florida experience. The underwater painting at Sandpearl, ‘Beneath the Waves,’ features the interesting marine life found in our area. And I feel for anyone who loves the beach, ‘Beneath the Waves’ definitely speaks to childhood memories of swimming and snorkeling.”
“At Opal Sands Resort, guests go up the escalator as they enter the lobby as if they are floating to the surface and above them are waves of stained glass,” says Still. That’s a result of the piece he created with sculptor Mark Aeling and his MGA Sculpture Studio. Called “Ascent,” the 30-foot long metal sculpture with glass shifts in color, like a wave passing over the shallows of a sandbar, and features a three-dimensional rippling effect.
Dolphin sightings are guaranteed around Clearwater Beach thanks to the Dolphin Trail, a public art pod of 120 playful dolphins designed by local artists in a variety of materials. Some must-see spots include Linger, decorated with lines of pine trees, at Honeymoon Island State Park, and Cleveland Street, where you can see Sun Dance and America the Beautiful. Or head to Tropicana Field to take a selfie with Skipper, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Rays and wearing a Rays jersey.
A bit further south, in the town of Belleair, at the recently premiered Belleview Inn, you’ll find a few new masterpieces by Christopher Still as well. Since the inn is a restored 38,000-square-foot section of an original 1897 Henry Plant hotel, the artwork naturally pays tribute to its historic roots. In addition to portraits of Henry Plant and his son, Morton, Still also painted a billboard-sized oil on canvas, known as A New Day. Hanging in the lobby, it appears to be your average water and sky scene, but upon closer inspection, the painting reveals dozens of historic hotel elements, from the train carriages that brought East Coast elites right up to the hotel to a spring house that once supplied water to the hotel. In fact, there are so many small features that a small guide had to be published to help viewers find them all.