CONTRIBUTED The half-size prototype for the Obelisk Art 450, constructed by Joel Bagnal, project manager, gives the idea for what artists will have to work with for the public art project. The final full-size version will be 8.5 feet tall and made of weatherproof wood composite and fiberglass. St. Augustine craftsman Bill Goode will make the 30 obelisks that will be transformed into a legacy of art next fall.
By Sue Bjorkman
Freedom, democracy, human rights and compassion. These values are enshrined on the historic Monumento de la Constitucion obelisk in St. Augustine’s city square. And thanks to a grant and a large-hearted grass-roots group, these same values will be depicted in a special public art project to pay tribute to the 450t,
Compassionate St. Augustine (a.k.a. the St. Augustine Initiative for Compassion) has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida through the Dr. Joann Crisp-Ellert Fund to help support Obelisk Art 450.
Similar to the cow public art project in Chicago or Jacksonville’s manatee art, Obelisk Art 450 will involve placing 30 8 1/2-foot obelisk replica sculptures with original designs by artists throughout St. Augustine from September to December 2015.
Compassionate St. Augustine was founded in 2011 by executive director Caren Goldman, her husband the Rev. Ted Voorhees and James Vande Berg to inspire and influence a culture of compassion through advocacy, awareness and action. Shortly afterwards the Charter for Compassion International approved the nonprofit organization’s plans to campaign to become an official Compassionate City. In August 2013, the City Commission unanimously approved a resolution supporting that goal and on Sept. 9, Mayor Joe Boles proclaimed that St. Augustine had become the first Compassionate City in Florida and the 20th in the world.
Goldman said the group is thrilled with the grant. The excitement is just as mutual for the giver as the receivers.
“We are really proud to work with this group and be able to help support this project,” said Amy Crane, program director of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. “The reason this grant is justified and the project worthy of this kind of investment is that it will impact so many.
“People will come to St. Augustine from all over to see it.”
Crane said the “magic happens” when the project so perfectly matches the vision of this fund and honors the donor’s legacy.
The mission of the Dr. JoAnn Crisp-Ellert Fund is to increase appreciation of the visual arts in St. Augustine and honor working artists. In this case, 30 renowned local and international artists will each be commissioned to work on a replica, bringing it alive creatively with scenes, ideas and values reflecting the cultural diversity of St. Augustine history.
The obelisk replicas, made of waterproof wood composite and fiberglass, will be constructed by St. Augustine native and craftsman Bill Goode. The first prototype was constructed by Compassionate St. Augustine member and project manager Joel Bagnal.
The Community Foundation also will sponsor the creation of the first obelisk, which will be designed by a St. Johns County artist to be identified at a later date. The grant gets the project off the ground by supporting the project curator’s salary, but corporate sponsorships will also be sought to help cover the final $250,000 price tag.
Artist and art organizer Claire Marie Pearman is coming from Egypt by way of England to act as curator. In 2013, while in Cairo, Pearman supervised a public art project, CARAVAN, using sculptures of donkeys. Donkeys are both beasts of burden and symbols of peace, so the project hoped to inspire a bridge of understanding between Christians and Muslims. Goldman and Pearman met last year when Pearman was in St. Augustine to move her daughter in as a Flagler College student. Inspired by CARAVAN, Compassionate St. Augustine’s board of trustees asked Pearman to oversee the St. Augustine project.
The Obelisk Art 450 collection will be showcased altogether at Flagler College’s Crisp Ellert Art Museum in September 2015 during the 450th celebration, and then later moved to outdoor sites through December 2015. Although the projects will be auctioned off in early 2016, Goldman hopes they will still be around as a legacy for the city’s 500th anniversary.
Display sites will be selected for their historical significance specifically as it relates to compassion — good or bad. “It could either be where something particularly compassionate happened or also where something horrendous happened so this would be a part of the healing,” Goldman said.
In a separately funded but related project, the art departments of seven St. Johns School District elementary schools, two parochial schools and two charter schools each will be given four half-size obelisk models (4 feet tall) for student artists to work with.
Source: The St. Augustine Record