After years of anticipation, Riviera Health Resort recently installed a two-and-a-half ton coral rock and bronze sculpture in the facility’s front courtyard.
The resort formally will unveil the sculpture, titled “Grandmother’s Love,” in a ceremony set for early October. Until then, it will remain covered in the courtyard in front of the health resort’s water fountain.
“It’s wonderful, very exciting,” said Richard E. Stacey, CEO of Riviera. “We think the statute depicts the heart of this facility, that it’s based on family, and the love for their relatives here.”
The state-of-the-art, 223-bed facility is located near the intersection of Yumuri Street and Sunset Drive, about two blocks east of Sunset Place. The resort offers a unique healthcare experience, combining post-acute and rehabilitation services within a boutique hotel environment. Additionally, Riviera will begin offering respite care, a short-term accommodation for those caring for a family member who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home.
Local artist David Valiente spent about two years sculpting the piece, working during vacation time and weekends when he was free from his primary job as a psychologist.
“I work full time as a psychologist, I see 25 to 30 people a week,” Valiente said. “It really was a labor of love for my family because I had to work weekends.”
The sculpture features a grandmother carrying her grandson in her arms, while her daughter holds her arm.
“The purpose of it is to show family, and the strength of family,” Valiente said. “That’s all giving credit to the grandmother, to the matriarch, that she’s still important, she’s valuable, and their family is as well.”
The facility, which is built on the same property as the first ever licensed nursing home in Miami-Dade County, opened in 2012. In order to construct the underground parking lot, crews had to go almost 40 feet beneath sea level in excavation. The coral rock removed during this process is the same rock used to make the sculpture, which also has bronze accents in the subjects’ legs, arms and faces.
“That was one of the most difficult engineering feats about doing the underground parking,” Stacey said. “To use the coral rock as part of the statue as a memory, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Although he has over 20 years experience as an independent sculptor, Valiente revealed he never received any formal training.
“I was one of those people whose parents said ‘I won’t pay for you to be an artist; you need to get a degree in a real career,’” Valiente said.
Rather than learning the trade through a school, the artist gained experience by working as an assistant to professional sculptors. His main inspiration, he said, is renowned local artist Frida Tschumy, who has done over 20 solo exhibitions during her career.
“I started out as a helper many, many years ago,” Valiente said. “I always helped [Tschumy], and later that’s where I learned. And now we’re very equals, we’ve been in a gallery together, we’ve been in exhibitions together.”
Decades later, Valiente now has his own helpers to assist him with projects such as “Grandmother’s Love.” Working with heavy materials like bronze, he explained, is not something that can be done alone, and required the assistance of at least one person at all times.
“You can’t, with this kind of work, do it in a small studio,” Valiente said. “You’re carrying five thousand pound stone block, it has to be a warehouse. You need forklifts, you need allen jacks, you need all kinds of large grinders.”