Pensacola’s rich history, walkable downtown, and thriving arts and culture scene make this beach town a coveted destination year-round. And while the city offers multiple tours and trails to take during your stay, new investment in historically significant murals popping up Downtown means your next tour of America’s First Settlement could easily happen by foot around every corner.
Public Displays of Art, that is.
The University of West Florida’s Historic Trust and its commitment to showcasing Pensacola’s colorful history is nothing new. From walking live-tours of the Julee Cottage brought to life by UWF students, to a multicultural exhibit representing the diverse groups that shaped Pensacola’s history at Voices of Pensacola, UWF understands making art a loud and proud centerpiece to demonstrate our rich history.
But now, a new committee known as the Pensacola Outdoor Project (POP), is mounting significant, memorable photographs portraying Pensacola’s past to create an educational, self-guided trail for visitors to take at their leisure.
Colorful History and Heritage
These POP: Murals have become the heart of Pensacola’s dynamic Downtown, providing a focal point for cultural heritage tourism. From the big-scale scene of Pensacola Warf in 1890 portrayed on Seville Tower to the arrival of Tall Ships to the Port of Pensacola in 1903 displayed on the old Beacon Building – visitors can get a larger-than-life glimpse into old Pensacola.
To date, six outdoor vinyl frames (yes, changeable frames, in order to avoid painting on the timeless structures they are portrayed on) beam over Downtown, providing an Instagram’able moment each way you turn.
The iconic “Gray Lady on Palafox” San Carlos Hotel in 1910. Pensacola’s maritime scene in 1765. The L&N Passenger Station built circa 1881. These scenes throughout the centuries are blown up to monumental proportion and grace the sides of equally celebrated historic buildings, illuminated to enjoy morning, noon, or night.
The Sun in Florida Draws No Color Line
And Pensacola’s celebration of art via mural doesn’t stop with the nod back to our illustrious history, so your mural tour Insta stories have no color boundary.
Let your friends know you “Wish You Were Here” with one of Downtown Pensacola’s most vibrant murals on the side of Zarzaur Law Firm, or send a “Pensacola Postcard” selfie, which depicts iconic scenes of Pensacola, all in one mural.
While strolling through Pensacola’s Historic District, take in the 64-square foot CUBED mural installations dispersed around town depending upon the season, with the core of cubes located behind the Pensacola Museum of History. The cubes are ever-changing, displaying maps of Pensacola, depictions of the beloved U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and scenes of the sugar-white sandy beaches boasted year-round. CUBED murals seize attention, compel pedestrians and drivers alike to pause in place, instantly improving public spaces, engaging citizens, and enlivening our city.
Caught in the Canvas Act
While the debate on the thin line graffiti walks between art and vandalism continues, Pensacola’s celebration of graffiti has become a landmark to locals and tourists alike: The Graffiti Bridge.
While the old railroad overpass has been a popular canvas for artists since 1935, Pensacola made this graffiti destination legal for artists to play in 2008. (Don’t worry, you won’t be framed.) Since then, graffiti covers every square inch of the bridge, with anything and everything portrayed on this work of living art any given day: tributes, community event announcements, well-wishes, condolences, holiday drawings, historical depictions, opinions on current events, words of encouragement or celebration, and more.
The works change daily, and as one professional power washer recently discovered, more than 4 inches of paint thickness pack these hallowed graffiti grounds, meaning your next trip to Pensacola to graffiti is will be no brush with the law.
Show me the Monet
While murals are the perfect way to commemorate history, liven a landscape, or stroke an ego, they can come at a lofty expense. Pensacola’s investment in art as part of the city’s master plan makes opportunities like the POP: Murals to flourish. Whether local arts grants, private donors, or corporate sponsorships, the city – in tandem with the UWF Historic Trust – is committed to creating a vibrant, dynamic Downtown through art to really draw a crowd.