"Let's work outside in Florida on the hottest day of the year!" Andrew Spear yells this across the Ravenous Pig parking lot while unpacking a rolly chair and art supplies from his minivan. It's hard to tell what's worse, the intense sun, the crushing humidity, or the summer storms that make being a muralist in Orlando a special kind of torture. But, he has his strategies: "It's a science. You know by the wind when it's gonna rain." This skill has come in handy recently, as this has been the wettest July on record in Central Florida.
Spear's murals, characterized by dramatically cross-hatched figures on bold backgrounds, can be seen all over the city. Recent works can be found around Mills50 and Ivanhoe, where he's made a home for himself. His favorite local spot is the Hideaway Bar. "I call it the office, I do more business there than anywhere else. Most artists do. I'm not gonna lie, we've got a drinking problem." (Although he has to admit that Wally's has the best wallpaper--"I don't know why they don't sell t-shirts!")
So, why would an artist choose to settle down in Orlando after working in Boston, New York, and San Francisco? "I need space. It's cheap to live here. I have a studio in my house; I can wake up and start work without even putting on pants." In big cities, pants-less working is a lot more difficult. Staggering rents prohibit most artists from working where they live or finding large studio spaces--especially if you're a muralist with ladders and scaffolds. "It's a hell of a lot more convenient here; it's easy to get things done. I love this place"
He's also proud that his own neighborhood, Ivanhoe Village, made it into the USAToday article "10 best neighborhoods that tourists haven't found yet." "I'd like to think that's because of the work some of us have done."
Spear, Orlando Weekly's Best Local Artist of 2013, also found a community of other artists in Orlando. "Here, you don't have to get in line. You can start your own thing, you can get support." When asked which Orlando public artist is his current favorite, Spear is quick to point to fellow public-art-creator Jacob Harmeling, who's known for his large-scale metal sculptures and whose work will be featured in the upcoming public art project See Art Orlando. "There are super talented people here," he says. "The right people get it," including Spear's unlikely accomplice City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who backed the Zebra mural at Mills and Weber. Is there a cross-hatched bad kitty in Orlando's future?
Spear's favorite Orlando project at Downtown's Steel House apartments.