ST. PETERSBURG - He has 44 years of Tampa to share, and local muralist Carl Cowden III is brushing the best of his hometown on a new canvas with strokes as vivid as his memory.
"When I was a little kid, my grandmother lived a few houses off Bayshore and we used to play on Bayshore all the time," he said." Getting my head stuck in the balustrades. You know, that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun."
The native artist's work will be unveiled Thursday at the Tampa Bay and Company Visitor's Center in Channelside. It's the first of a herd of four-by-four fiberglass elephants taking Tampa Bay in time for the Republican National Convention.
"It's so personal to me. You know, its part of where I grew up," he said.
RNC visitors who've never been to Gasparilla will see Jose Gaspar's raucous flotilla. They will take a ride on a yellow Ybor City streetcar and twist at top speeds on Busch Gardens' Cheetah Hunt rollercoaster.
"I just want someone to see it right away and want to look at it more carefully because there's so much detail in it," said Cowden.
"Herd About Tampa Bay" is a partnership between the Outdoor Arts Foundation and Tampa Bay's Host Committee. More than two dozen elephants, each with a unique design, will invade Tampa International Airport, downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg and Pinellas beaches.
"Each sponsor gets to choose the design for their elephant. We are seeing a lot of patriotic themes for elephants but you're going to see elephants with lipstick on their trunk, eyelashes," said Jay Goulde, Executive Director Outdoor Arts Foundation.
Cowden's version also shows kayakers paddling down the Hillsborough River, a Florida manatee calf and cow and gleaming minarets.
"My alma mater is UT," said Cowden.
Memories he'll share with thousands of RNC visitors who stop by the Channelside Visitor's Center.
Tampa Bay's best, RNC patrons won't soon forget.