Look closely at the picture of Georgia Roark (right) taken during a recent visit to Mead Garden. Behind her you will see a lush landscape alive with wildlife, birds, trees, flowers and trails to explore. That beautiful scene is actually Georgia’s own work of art — a Mead Garden-inspired mural that adorns an outside wall of the Little Environmental building. Georgia, a well-known Winter Park artist, first painted the 40-foot long landscape several years ago.
Look closely at the picture of Georgia Roark (right) taken during a recent visit to Mead Garden. Behind her you will see a lush landscape alive with wildlife, birds, trees, flowers and trails to explore. That beautiful scene is actually Georgia’s own work of art — a Mead Garden-inspired mural that adorns an outside wall of the Little Environmental building. Georgia, a well-known Winter Park artist, first painted the 40-foot long landscape several years ago. In October, she completed a major update to the mural.
Renovation work on the Little Environmental building left two large blank squares in the original scene. When Georgia learned about the gaps, she volunteered to make the picture whole again. And we sure are glad she did. It’s charming and beautiful! What started as an effort to fill in two blanks turned into a major re-do.
“I couldn’t help myself,” the artist said with a smile as she stepped back, brush in hand, to survey the newly painted scene. “Doing this is such fun. I love nature and Mead Garden. This gives me peace.”
The idea for the mural originally came about through a family connection. For years, the building served as the center for an environmental education program funded by Orange County Public Schools. More than a thousand elementary-aged children visited the center each year during school-sponsored field trips. Georgia’s daughter was an educator at the center.
Georgia learned that the visiting children would stand in line along the side of the building waiting their turn to come into the center. Wouldn’t a few cute critters painted on the wall entertain the kids while they waited? Georgia, who once taught art at Dommerich Elementary School, started by painting just a few animals — a little raccoon, an owl, an otter and a grinning alligator.
Soon, the entire 40-foot wall was covered with lush trees, bushes and a pond — places for the artist-created wildlife to hide and masses of children to enjoy. Although the program eventually ended due to budget cuts, the mural continues to bring a smile to summer campers and visitors to the garden who happen upon the hidden treasure.
Mead Garden has been a significant part of Georgia and her family’s life for decades. She clearly remembers her first visit to the garden. It was 1959. She was there for the dedication ceremony for the Little Amphitheatre. Her stepfather, Leroy Coffman, then owner of an ornamental iron company on Orange Avenue, crafted the wrought iron trellis that surrounds the amphitheatre stage. Georgia now lives a few blocks from the garden and loves to bring her young grandson to explore the trails just as she did with her children. “I love this place, being in nature. It’s truly God’s creation, so serene and great fun.”
In addition to the mural at Mead, Georgia recently completed a 20'x30' mural at the Winter Park Tennis Center. A versatile artist, Georgia’s intricate pen and ink drawings of Winter Park landmarks are carried in local shops, including Miller’s Hardware.
We hope you’ll make a point of coming out to see Georgia’s recent masterpiece.