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Arts & Culture

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Photos by Joey Borroto

Orlando experiences a public art renaissance

See Art at Lake Eola, Urban Art Museum and two more large-scale public works

Photo: "Take Flight," by Douwe Blumberg (Mossville, Ky.), License: N/A

"Take Flight," by Douwe Blumberg (Mossville, Ky.)

Photo: "Centered," by C.J. Rench (Hood River, Ore.), License: N/A

"Centered," by C.J. Rench (Hood River, Ore.)

Photo: "Muse of Discovery," by Meg White (Stephensport, Ky.), License: N/A

"Muse of Discovery," by Meg White (Stephensport, Ky.)

Photo: "Red Tail Pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen," by Syd Levy, Mike McKenzie, Jeff Stanford (Orlando), License: N/A

"Red Tail Pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen," by Syd Levy, Mike McKenzie, Jeff Stanford (Orlando)

Photo: "Sol-Community," by Marcos Cruz and James Cornetet (Orlando) (photo by James Cornetet), License: N/A

"Sol-Community," by Marcos Cruz and James Cornetet (Orlando) (photo by James Cornetet)

Photo: "Tower of Light," by Ed Carpenter (Portland, Ore.), License: N/A

"Tower of Light," by Ed Carpenter (Portland, Ore.)

Photo: "Cedar of Lebanon," by Jacob Harmeling (Orlando), License: N/A

"Cedar of Lebanon," by Jacob Harmeling (Orlando)

Photo: "Global Convergence," by Deedee Morrison (Birmingham, Ala.), License: N/A

"Global Convergence," by Deedee Morrison (Birmingham, Ala.)

Photo: "Astrogenesis II," by Wendy M. Ross (Bethesda, Md.), License: N/A

"Astrogenesis II," by Wendy M. Ross (Bethesda, Md.)

Photo: "Union," by Ralfonso Gschwend (Zurich, Switzerland), License: N/A

"Union," by Ralfonso Gschwend (Zurich, Switzerland)

Photo: "Monument in Right Feet Major," by Todji Kurtzman (Portland, Ore.), License: N/A

"Monument in Right Feet Major," by Todji Kurtzman (Portland, Ore.)


Awakening from its long, dreamless slumber, downtown Orlando is finally blinking in the creative dawn of a new era. Notably lacking until now in public art, the city's urban core finally joins others of its size and sizzle by adding eight public art pieces to the 26 others which enliven its sidewalks and plazas. 

Residents of some cities are proud to see their taxes used to brand and uplift their hometowns; See Art boasts, however, "Each installation will be underwritten by corporate sponsors and maintained by the City of Orlando without utilizing taxpayer dollars." Private sponsors of the See Art initiative include Darden, Bright House, Universal Resorts and Wayne Densch Charities. Some individual patrons underwrote the work as well: the DeVos Family Foundation, Harvey and Carol Massey and Family, Khaled Akkawi, and Ford Kiene and Jennifer Quigley each have names on sculptures. Spending on art in a big way is starting to happen once again, and no doubt Orlandoans will feel the same sense of ownership, regardless of who's footing the bill.

"Good cities have elements of both surprise and delight, and we hope See Art gives downtown a bit of both," says See Art chairwoman Jennifer Quigley. Donna Dowless, who is an artist herself and also serves on the See Art board of directors, emphasizes that "this is a way to celebrate our city. A sidewalk worth having a conversation about is a sidewalk that brings people back." 

These eight new monumental artworks are strung around Lake Eola, creating an instant art walk for locals and visitors. Our own Jacob Harmeling (Qui Studio) provided one piece, "Cedar of Lebanon," putting local artists on par with the national and international artists who made it through See Art's vetting process. 

In addition to these eight pieces of art, the Tower of Light at City Hall Plaza has been lovingly restored – and the feast of massive public visual art doesn't stop there. Syd Levy, owner of United Trophy downtown, sponsored a terrific monument to the bravery of the Tuskegee Airmen, a corps of African-American fighter pilots during World War II, now sited at the Orlando Science Center. And possibly most interesting of all is the Urban Art Museum, an experimental project that unveiled its first piece Nov. 19 at 932 N. Mills Ave. 

Here's a quick rundown of all this art newly gracing the City Beautiful.

"Astrogenesis II," by Wendy M. Ross (Bethesda, Md.) 
See Art: 201 S. Orange Ave., near the corner of Church Street 
Star birth is an appropriate theme for Central Florida, what with our history and involvement in space research. "When I was installing it, people asked if it was a flower," Ross says in a phone interview. It glows with light at night, so it could be our next space flower? With public art placed nationwide, Ross knows a thing or two about how to enliven a plaza, and Seaside Bank Plaza is all the better for it.

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