BY KIMEKO MCCOY
St. Augustine residents and visitors will be seeing new art around town soon, as artists have been announced for a public art project. A total of 25 local, national and international artists have been challenged by Compassionate St. Augustine to interpret the four foundational values of the Spanish Constitution Monument onto their own 8-and-a-half-foot-tall obelisk for the Tour of Compassion. Those foundations are freedom, democracy, human rights and compassion.
Throughout the city, 25 obelisks will be stationed at locations based on their history and cultural importance as they pertain to the four foundational values. “Overarchingly, the purpose is that hopefully this will create a legacy of compassion to the generations as we move forward to the 500th,” said Caren Goldman, executive director of Compassionate St. Augustine.
One of the artists, Jan Tomlinson Master of St. Augustine, said she’s what is termed an installation artist. “I usually do large installations where you can walk inside,” she said. So using an obelisk as her canvas will be a change.
Of the 25 artists, Master scored high enough by a selection panel to represent St. Augustine in a public art artist exchange between the city and its Sister City of Aviles, Spain. Master said it was an honor to represent the city during the exchange program.
“The city of Aviles treated me like a queen,” she said.
Master said she’d been to Spain before, but it was still a cool experience to stay in Aviles for three weeks. In Aviles, Master had a studio, options for meals and living space. During her time there, she created an obelisk design made of fabric. For the obelisk she will design in St. Augustine, her theme is human rights.
“I think that if we give everybody equal rights, we become a more compassionate city,” she said.
As to not give away too much information about the design, she said her obelisk will focus on reflection. “I’m looking at my obelisk almost as a gazing ball in a garden that’s a reflection,” she said. Her hope is that viewers will see themselves in the reflection and consider how they fit into human rights.
“Everybody goes through the same things,” she said.
Although he doesn’t consider himself a typical artist, Don Trousdell of St. Augustine was also selected as one of the 25 obelisk artists. “This was an important story for me to help tell because people didn’t realize how important this story was,” Trousdell said. At almost 80 years old, Trousdell does mostly educational shows. “I always have a story to tell in my paintings,” he said.
As for his obelisk, the theme is democracy — another one of the four pillars of the Spanish Constitution. Research is important to Trousdell, and he said he’ll put a lot into the obelisk as he does with his other works of art. “This is just fun for me because it’s an extension of what I do,” he said.
Both Master’s and Trousdell’s obelisks are to be at the Visitor Information Center. To qualify to create art on the obelisk, artists were judged on a point system, with a total of 100 points possible. The artist’s professional resume counted for 25 points, quality of past work was 50 points and artistic intention and ability was worth 25 points.
The artists for the temporary public project were pulled together by Cabeth Cornelius, Compassionate St. Augustine curator. She said a simple yet specific call to artists was put out in an effort to get professional local, national and international artists interested in the project. “I think we will surprise people with the quality of fabulousness that’s out there,” Cornelius said.
The call to artists was distributed by the St. Johns Cultural Council and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville as well as statewide and national cultural organizations. Forty-three completed applications were received by the Feb. 1 deadline. It was open to professional artists, without geographic restrictions.
Cornelius said most applications were from professional artists in the Southerneastern U.S., but applications were also received from France and Spain. “As a curator, I differentiate not where an artist is from but where an artist shows their work,” she said.
Of the 43 that applied, 24 artists were chosen — 18 of which have national exhibition experience and nine have international exhibition experience.
The 25th artist, Pablo Hugo Rozada Vena, is participating through the artist exchange with Aviles. The three-person artist selection panel was made up of people outside St. Augustine to add objectivity to the selection process.
One judge was Wesley Gibbon, who is the associate director of J. Johnson Gallery in Jacksonville Beach. Another was Glenn Weiss, who is a consultant for public art, streetscapes and civic enhancements in South Florida. Constance White was also on the panel. White is a council member of Public Art Network and Americans for the Arts. She is also vice president of public art at the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina.
Artists selected by the panel have extensive exhibition experience that includes local, national and international museum and gallery shows. The obelisks, paid for through grants and private donations, will be on display in Flagler College’s Crisp-Ellert Art Museum from Sept. 5-30 and on public display from October to January. “It’s not a one-shot thing or event that lasts for a day or a weekend,” Goldman said. “They’re there to spark conversations.”
St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver said she’s a huge fan of art, making this project important to her. “I am just incredibly enthusiastic about it. As someone once said, you either make art or you collect it. I collect it,” she said. Shaver said she doesn’t think the city has seen a project like this before in terms of experiencing art that ties so closely to the city’s history.
“This highlights, to me, a part of our community that we all know about but now it’s going to be front and center,” she said.
Source: The St. Augustine Record