In the early '60s under the hot South Florida sun, sculptor Jules Canisalle labored on a strange statue. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the 15-foot-tall sculpture would go on to become a rare Miami icon.
Miami Science Museum's giant sloth statue has been a beloved, if a bit strange, Magic City mainstay. It's so recognizable to locals that it even made New Times' list of weirdest Miami landmarks in 2013. But as the new science museum, renamed the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, prepares to open its swanky home beside PAMM in May, many have wondered: What'll happen to the sloth?
Turns out it won't go far. According to reports, the statue will move to Omni Park, the newly opened public space downtown, about two blocks west of Frost Science's location.
No official announcement has been made regarding the sloth, but last week, a Frost spokesperson confirmed to New Times that the sculpture will likely stay in town. City of Miami public officials say the Frost is in talks with Brad Knoefler, the developer of Omni Park, though "nothing has been signed yet." They say important details, such as how the statue will be moved and its safety and maintenance, need to be worked out first.
But yesterday Knoefler seemed to confirm the move when he posted a photo of himself in front of the statue and wrote, "My new best friend. Coming soon to OMNI Park!" Knoefler declined to comment for this story.
It's not a bad place to retire. Keeping the sloth near the Frost might give locals a sense of continuity, as the new planetarium's laser shows will provide.
Since the '60s, the sloth statue has been a beloved landmark for locals. Back then, the still-budding Miami Science Museum was developing its natural history collection. Its exhibition director, Frank Romanelli, in an effort to expand the young institution's offerings, commissioned Canisalle to bring back to life one rather odd-looking prehistoric Florida beast: the giant ground sloth.
With the help of museum employees, the artist worked on the concrete-and-wire-mesh sculpture for weeks, sometimes even using a scaffold to add details to the sloth's face. From the moment the statue was completed, it became an immediate hit.
Early visitors would often take photos with it before entering the museum. The statue originally stood immediately in front of the building. Over the decades, the giant sloth changed locations a few times at the museum, each new spot putting the sculpture more in the limelight.
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In an effort to attract guests to the cloistered, unassuming museum, the eye-catching fellow was moved beside U.S. 1 in 1989. Ever since, the sloth has become a quirky roadside attraction and “friendly” cultural landmark.
Because the science museum is moving, many of the old location’s items are in a state of limbo regarding their next home.
According to a spokesperson for the museum, the staff employees at Frost Science are assessing "the state of the exhibits and their potential" because many of them require substantial updating and renovation. However, even if the items aren't in bad shape, that doesn't mean they'll be spared from being ousted from the museum's collection. The Frost's staff is identifying organizations and institutions that will serve as the new homes of items that do not require "substantial renovation and maintenance."
We're just happy the sloth seems to be staying local. We like that creeper. It has a cute smile.