Lakeland Art Installation Honors Veterans, Public Servants

A new public art installation in Lakeland pays tribute to veterans, police, firefighters and emergency responders.

The piece is a collaboration among Platform Art, Polk County Veterans Council and Lakeland youth.

Platform Art worked with Polk County Public Schools to provide workshops for high school teachers to help them incorporate 3D curriculum into their classrooms. They then held a design challenge, asking students to create a sculpture that represents public agencies using a one foot square footprint. Over 60 students responded to the challenge.

The winner was Lake Region High School senior Maria Vazquez, whose sculpture was then fabricated on a larger scale in glass and steel by regional artist Tom Monaco. The final piece consists of two vertical slabs of steel with images of first a couple looking at each other and then a baby behind them. A glass plate in front is engraved with the poem "Honor" by William McGehee, which wraps around a silhouette image of a soldier.

"You’re not only looking at a public servant, but at the reasons they do their job – their family, children," says Cynthia Haffey, executive director for Platform Art and graduate of the University of South Florida.

Vasquez first got the inspiration for the sculpture when she came across McGehee’s poem. After further research, Platform Art realized the poem was written while McGehee was in high school, and that he is currently on his second deployment in Afghanistan. He recorded himself reading the poem, which is incorporated into the display.

Once Vasquez’s design was selected, she met with Monaco and talked about how the public could interact with the piece and how people could approach it physically and visually.

"It was a great learning process for her," says Haffey. "She was stunned at the amount of thoughtful consideration you have to put into a work of art when doing something for the general public."

Vasquez is the daughter of immigrants living in Polk County. After graduating, she will attend Polk State College and then plans to further her education at a design school.

Platform Art is a nonprofit organization in Polk County that focuses on visual arts, leaning toward public art. The project is the first in a series of three with a similar theme and purpose. It will be displayed in City Hall for the summer, and will then be installed in Veterans Park. Eventually, the hope is for this and other sculptures in the series to tour the Tampa Bay region and potentially the State.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Cynthia Haffey, Platform Art

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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