No ribbons and scissors here—Seaside Sculpture Park was christened with a blowtorch and a metal sheet Monday. This creative spin opened the new public art showcase in Jacksonville Beach that displays the work of five UNF students.
The Student Affairs Community Council (SACC) at the University of North Florida, MountainStar Capital, the Lazzara Family Foundation and several Jacksonville Beach residents celebrated the grand opening of the new park.
Located at 480 First St. S. in Jacksonville Beach, it’s not hard to miss any of the five large-scale structures. “Ongoing Life”, created by student sculptor Gillian Harper, showcases blossoming metal flowers and leaves that stand over ten-feet tall. This is the third large-scale sculpture fabricated by Harper, who is very happy to end her senior year on a high note.
“It’s really exciting, but I was kinda anxious with it being public art, but the piece turned out really well and the other pieces look great together,” said Harper. During her time as an undergraduate, Harper has constructed large-scale sculptures in Kentucky and had a display at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
The other sculptures provide wonderful nuances to the park. Mary Ratcliff’s “Symbiosis” is the first solar-powered art piece created by a UNF student. According to Associate Professor and head of UNF’s sculpture department Jenny Hager, Ratcliff did the research to install solar panels in what looks like a blue hand holding a glowing orb.
The park is especially unique to the beach area because it’s the only park of its kind on private land in the area—a private-public partnership. The Lazzara Family Foundation provided the land and a $50,000 gift to support students and the sculpture program. Christopher Lazzara, CEO of MountainStar Capital and chair of the community and outreach committee of the SACC, spoke at the ceremony and thanked the university for providing artwork that adds a splash of color to the shoreline.
“Public art is an important catalyst for learning and creativity in our community. The hard work and creativity of these students is just inspiring and the embodiment of a perfect private-public partnership,” said Lazzara, in front of a mighty metal osprey in mid-swoop.
The gift from the Lazzara’s supported the creation of 11 mini-sculptures that were entered into a contest for the public art installation. Five finalists were chosen by a committee of professional artists, professors, a Jacksonville Beach City Council member and a member of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville (CCGJ).
Mason Martin, a Jacksonville Beach resident and CCGJ project manager, said having this park is a “dream come true.”
“Public art is already my thing, so I’ve looked for opportunities to get involved. And it’s not as easy as you think to make something like this happen. But the landscaping and the student’s work is just fabulous,” said Martin.
Not only is the park striking curb appeal for residents and beachgoers, but the students definitely are the ones glowing with exposure from their work.
“At UNF, our focus is on undergraduates and having these opportunities almost guarantees our art students into graduate schools,” Hager said during her ceremony speech.
The park is open to the public from dawn to dusk and free to visit.
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