From the twisting trees on the Rollins College campus to the rose garden in Central Park, Winter Park resident and artist Mary Martin has captured countless peaceful sites with her paint brush. She’s recreated Mead Garden’s natural and wild beauty on canvas, while the old Amtrak train station lives on in the form of soft brush strokes.
But today Martin has the chance to capture another gem in Winter Park only available with permission from the city: the sidewalks of Park Avenue.
It’s been almost seven months since the city of Winter Park passed its street performer ordinance last December, which banned artists and performers from the sidewalks of Park Avenue, New England Avenue, the Winter Park Farmers Market and the SunRail station.
The new law also established designated performance zones, which include Central Park, the lawn outside City Hall, a corner lot adjacent to the Farmers Market and a small park at the corner of Park and Whipple avenues.
Local merchants and restaurants had been complaining about street musicians driving away customers and blocking sidewalks. Today, anyone looking to perform along Park Avenue must first receive a permit from the city that specifies the time and location of the performance.
But the ordinance affected more than just musicians strumming acoustic guitars. The new law also included visual artists like painters and sketch artists.
Martin, who has been painting and selling artwork for the past 30 years, decided that she’d see how easy it is to apply for a permit. She’d painted along Park Avenue in the past before, but typically chose to paint in the park.
The new law hadn’t given her a sunny outlook toward the city government, but that soon changed.
“The first reaction was upset because it made the artist feel unwelcome here,” said Martin, adding that no one had ever complained to her about painting along the Avenue. “When I approached Commissioners and other people who worked on Park Avenue, I learned that it was never against the artist as far as the painters go. My understanding was that it was more about the noise…. Since [painting] was listed under ‘performance,’ we fell into that category.”
Martin said that applying for the permit was simple enough: note the general time you’ll be on the Avenue, the location, and whether or not you’d be attracting a crowd of spectators that would block the sidewalks. Realizing that the application mainly applied to performance art and not painters, Martin was able to work with the city in obtaining a year-long permit for all of Park Avenue, which is good until May 31, 2017.
That helps her more as an artist, since painting is a spontaneous art form, Martin said.
The Winter Park painter added that hopefully visual art will be stricken from the ordinance, since it doesn’t disrupt local businesses. Artists typically even attract curious customers to a business they’re painting in front of.
Martin said she’s encouraged other artists to get the permit and see what they think for themselves. She said she will continue to paint in public because of how calming it is, all while capturing a special moment in time.
“It’s like a quiet story,” Martin said. “It’s a quiet memory.”