Famed Key West artist Rick Worth has just completed another large outdoor mural -- but you have to go onto Naval Air Station Key West to see it.
"The Sigsbee Splash" is a one-story tall depiction of the flora and fauna of the Keys with an emphasis on fish and mammals, such as sailfish and dolphins, which are classroom mascots at the Sigsbee Charter School. The mural covers a former gray concrete wall of the "cafegymnatorium."
There's plenty of "oohing" and "ahhing" as first-time viewers walk by, usually slowing down to take a look at the brightly painted reef scene, which is a bit of a departure for Worth. The longtime multimedia artist is best known for his "Candy Bars" paintings, which generally depict Old Town street scenes, on metal roof shingles.
"It gave me an opportunity to paint fish, which isn't something I do a lot of," said Worth, who these days is working on building a backdrop for the upcoming Fantasy Fest king and queen coronation. "When I looked at the wall they wanted me to paint, it was just this great big, ugly building, which is how just about any muralist will see a blank wall. But we made something really playful out of it, and I had a blast doing it. It's really there for the kids."
The mural took Worth about two weeks to complete using latex enamel house paint, his most oft-used medium. The project came about as a result of Worth's painting "Book Camp" classes, which are held at The Studios of Key West.
"We had a few people take the class with him and then we approached him about doing the mural after that," said Sigsbee Principal Eli Jannes. "We had heard very positive things about Rick, and especially his work with kids."
The mural truly is a "kid-centered" painting, Jannes said, with the intention of making each child feel at home, seeing his or her class mascot on the way to school. The school's top mascot is the sailfish, indicative of an inclination toward marine science.
Now that "Sigsbee Splash" has been completed, Jannes said she is fishing around for sponsors for future Worth murals on other school buildings.
"We'd like to try to represent all the fun facets that make Key West unique, and paint them on the buildings that connect best with those themes," Jannes said. "So, for example, the next concept could be music. What is the music of Key West? Steel pan bands? Then we might move on to mangroves, the solar system."
The Sigsbee mural project joins a pantheon of other outdoor works by Worth, who has lived in Key West for three decades now.
The artist's "Wilhelmina Crossing the Seven Mile Bridge" adorns the Olivia Street side of Bobby's Monkey Bar on Simonton Street. Former County Mayor Wilhelmina Harvey is depicted leading a boatload of Worth's deceased friends -- and pets -- across the span.
A huge Conch house painting can also be found on the exterior of the arrivals building at Key West International Airport.
While "Sigsbee Splash" is a little harder for the public to get a firsthand look at, Jannes is hoping to find ways to offer a glimpse to Key Westers.
"If people want to come see it they could call the school, and we could make arrangements with the security shack," Jannes said. "And hopefully, as [Worth] continues, we'll be able to have an open event to visit, though it's a bit hard to do an unveiling when the mural is an entire wall."
Anyone wishing to sponsor future mural projects at Sigsbee is asked to call 305-294-1861.