Art is evocative. It stands for something bigger than itself. Art feeds the mind and nourishes the soul.
It entices the observer or participant, coaxing the individual into a more profound, conscious, and unconscious experience. Artistic creations operate on the level of meaning, bringing together thoughts and feelings to expand both the individual and the community's wonder and imagination.
Public art should symbolize the hopes and aspirations of a community.
Urban murals and sculptures are meant to reflect a community in dialogue, searching to express who we are and what we aspire to be as a human family in this place, in this time, and into the future. Concerts, dance performances, theater, and street festivals have the dynamic ability to challenge participants' hearts, minds, and souls, expressing underlying identity principles — this is what we uphold. Our arts environment can be a key to the transforming human family — for example, a city’s enlightened imagery for creating change amid a tide of increasing discrimination.
Wilton Manors takes pride in being a very diverse community standing for freedom, acceptance, and the empowerment of all members who desire to thrive and live in harmony. “With a large percentage of the population identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, Wilton Manors has been a progressive place to live, work and play for many years.” (wiltonmanors.com.) Art in Wilton Manors must operate on various levels of meaning and attain the community buy-in so vital to be an authentic expression.
Our city art and arts offerings should reflect our most noble values to keep the work of attaining social justice within sight. “The Stop and Look Up” street lamp sculptures on The Drive are an excellent example of the thought-provoking nature of artistic renderings expressed within a light-hearted perspective. Across the globe, inspiring urban murals stand out as creations that extend beyond themselves to represent and evoke themes that open members of an individual community and touch the hearts of countless neighbors.
Indeed, Wilton Manors has the potential to create unique artistic expressions comparable to “Fearless Girl,” the bronze Wall Street sculpture by Kristen Visbal. Installed in New York in anticipation of International Women's Day, this iconic art piece depicts a girl four feet high, promoting female empowerment, staring down the “Charging Bull” near the Stock Exchange Building. I suggest candy hearts at the crossroads of our entertainment district at Sixth and The Drive do not have the same impact that a true diversity challenge captured as a work of art can have.
Wilton Manors has a wealth of resources to actualize our community’s commitment to the winning power of love and acceptance. The South Florida Symphony Orchestra is headquartered on Wilton Drive. The Stonewall National Museum and Archives and the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale are located nearby. Many local theater companies such as Island City Stage, New City Players, and Empire Stage are literally within steps. These institutions can be engaged to maximize a wealth of well-coordinated and talented productions expressing our home community's ideals to instruct, motivate, and inspire. University art students and programs are plentiful – young arts abound. There are many local businesses with the capacity for community outreach in arts sponsorship. Investors appreciate well-planned partnerships.
We are a city of world-class arts potential, and to that end, I would like to offer the following suggestions:
- The City of Wilton Manors should create a process to articulate a City Vision Statement for the arts. This should be an inspirational expression of the Wilton Manors Community's idealistic future, describing the basic human emotions that our community intends to be experienced by the people whose day-to-day interactions find a home on “The Island City.” This should be reviewed and updated regularly.
- With the potential to have some existential impact on the world, this guiding philosophy should be the touchstone for all public art projects, especially those funded by taxpayers.
- A multi-faceted arts development plan should be created for the City of Wilton Manors to maximize our resources and attract visitors, donors, and additional artists. This plan should be an opportunity to partner with our neighbor cities and communities for maximum benefit.
- A design competition for all murals, architectural designs, and sculptures that attract local artists' participation should be put in place.
- As much as possible, plans, designs, and decisions related to public art in Wilton Manors should be accomplished within an open environment in a coordinated attempt to secure buy-in from the community.
While the Rainbow Bridge on the Drive project has some merit, it lacks the expression and depth of meaning required to be true community art. The Wilton Manors Community, with dedicated leadership, comprehensive planning, and the potential of attaining authentic community support, can do much better.
- Thomas Paul Severino,
Wilton Manors Resident