In late July, the 81-mile Florida Keys Sculpture Trail made its debut. It comprises nine massive sculptures along Overseas Highway between Islamorada and Key West.
The pieces were created as part of the Art Students League of New York Model to Monument Program and, beginning in 2016, were displayed in New York City’s Riverside Park. According to Liz Young, executive director of the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, the works were transported to the Keys in June 2017.
“Six of the pieces were installed before [Hurricane Irma], and we have seven up now,” Young says. “It was an accomplishment that the art withstood the storm. We had 300 telephone lines that came down, but our sculptures stood. It was a point of hope and positivity for quite a few of us.”
Financially, the trail was brought to fruition by Key West philanthropists John Padget and Jacob Dekker. Logistically, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, Monroe County Art in Public Places Committee, and Monroe County Board of Commissioners led installation and relocation efforts. “No public funding was used," Young says, "and that was our promise with this project from day one.”
Given the geography of a drive to and from the Keys and installing a string of art to gawk at, the organizers made driver/visitor safety a priority.
“The whole challenge was finding places that the public could stop and park... where they weren’t forced to slow down and cause a car accident. It was challenging, but we did it right.”
Among the installed sculptures are Tanda Francis' Everyone Breaks, which takes inspiration from 13th-century Yoruban sculptures, and Sheila Berger’s Nature Eternal and Avis Gloriae, the latter a towering bird installed at Key West International Airport. One of the two remaining sculptures still to be installed is James Emerson's Bridge — a contemporary, pyramid-like nature piece that will be on view in Islamorada Gardens.
For a map of the sculpture trail, visit keysarts.com.