On the south side of the alley between Central Avenue and 1st Avenue North, where the alley intersects 6th Street North, is the beautiful mural painted as a tribute to the late artist known as Woo.
34 feet wide and 18 feet high, the calm, light blue face of a heavy-set man with close-cropped hair, a goatee and hip glasses looks directly at you. His face is painted rich light blue, against a pale blue background. His face is closer to the right side of the mural than the left, and as tall as the wall, with his neck and shoulders at the base.
His eyes are warm and kind, his expression thoughtful, even a bit melancholy. But his right eyebrow is arched, as if the sight of you’s about to make him smile.
Woo’s gentle face takes up a full third of the mural. He wears a pale green shirt, mottled with blue bits of paint. His tattooed right arm reaches out across the left side of the mural, holding a paintbrush.
He’s surrounded by a colorful array of sea creatures. On the left, a large orange and yellow goldfish, a pastel-striped crab and a sprawling golden jellyfish dangling its tentacles across Woo’s arm. A green and orange fish with a big red eye and feathery fins curls on his right shoulder. A manta ray hovers over his head, while an enormous green fish decorated with old-fashioned filigree patterns pokes his head out from behind Woo’s head. At the top of the mural, a mermaid with flowing scarlet hair and a red tail adjusts an earring.
On the right side of the mural, a green eel curls across Woo’s throat and a flaming orange sea turtle tipped with gold rests on Woo’s left shoulder. A google-eyed hermit crab sits on the turtle, peering curiously at the alley. A variety of colorful tropical fish swim across this undersea landscape.
On the bottom left corner of the mural is a bright gold, orange, pink and peach coral reef. The coral is made from the hand prints, of children.
The mural artist Bill Corriera was known as Woo. He was well known for paintings of sea life and for encouraging art and artists in St. Petersburg. He enjoyed painting in public, with people, instead of alone in a studio. Woo painted in his gallery, in restaurants or on a downtown street. Woo passed away in 2012 in his Central Avenue gallery, after battling cancer for five years. He was only 43.
Hours after his death, muralist Derek Donnelly painted Woo’s likeness on this wall. Derek’s name is painted bright blue, with a heart, just over Woo’s left ear.
More than 40 local artists added the colorful fish and ocean creatures. They even painted three dumpsters that sit in front of the mural – with huge gold and orange tulips, stick figures in a boat on a turbulent gold and blue sea, and a lively blue, green, gold and orange tropical reef.
If you continue down this brick-paved alley heading west, you’ll find that the entire alley’s lined with murals. A psychedelic gorilla, the lovely face of Frida Kahlo and a few more murals on our tour, including Twiggy by Chad Mize. And on the building just across from Woo’s mural, on the west side around the corner, the colorful Eye of the Storm by Ricky Watts.