As part of the Art in Public Places Program, Palmetto Bay’s new obelisk in the traffic circle located at SW 168th Street and Galloway Road soon will be getting an imaginative artistic “makeover” that will transform it into something unique called Balance of Life.
Joshua Wiener, a second generation sculptor from Boulder, CO, who has exhibited and participated in sculpture symposiums nationwide, and in India and Japan as well, was selected by the village council during the Monday, Feb. 7 meeting. He was one of three finalists from 20 overall entrants.
Wiener, who began stone sculpting in 1994, was given the commission to create a sculptural treatment for the obelisk based on his previous work and his proposal.
In his presentation to the Art in Public Places Committee and to the village council, Wiener conveyed his enthusiasm.
“This project excites me for so many reasons,” Wiener said. “I am inspired by the natural beauty of Palmetto Bay, the obelisk, and the efforts for sustainability by the city. It relates to all of my efforts as an artist and an environmental advocate.
“ Balance of Life is about inspiring environmental stewardship,” he added. “The intent of this piece is to present a flow of fish in a way that draws a relationship between good policy and a robust environment.”
Efren Nuñez, the village zoning administrator/ planner who is in charge of the Art in Public Places program, explained how it came about.
“The village issued an RFP, in this case a request for proposals from artists, which went into a national database. The advisory board then went through all the submissions and selected the top four, of which two were local Miami-Dade County artists and the other two were from the west coast.”
Nuñez said that the village paid each of the top four artists a stipend of $1,000 to come up with a design, and then those were presented to the advisory board for them to study and to score, and then the top three were given to the village council with the board’s recommendations.
“The basic elements of the obelisk and fountain are of course already completed,” Nuñez said. “What we’re adding is an artistic element to the fountain. The artist has to sculpt and cast the fish, and the structure will have to reincorporate the jet streams for the water element.”
Village officials are expecting a May 9 deadline for the completion and installation of the artwork, according to Nuñez.
“The sculpture with the fish wraps around the obelisk, and it looks as if it’s moving as you drive around it in your vehicle,” Nuñez said. “In the daytime the fountain has a cascading water effect. At night the fountain turns off and it has some animation of lights.”
Residents can get a preview of how the completed fountain will look both by day and by night, thanks to a video created by the artist which has been posted on the village’s official website at www.palmettobay-fl.gov/.
“The bulk of the money comes from the private sector,” Nuñez said. “The new Walgreen’s, the addition of the garage at BMW, those contributed to the public art fund. But we’re also mandated under the Miami-Dade County ordinance to allocate 1.5 percent of construction toward the acquisition of public art. Our contribution to the fountain was only $8,000, but it’s a $50,000 project.”
For the artist, the fountain is all about man’s interaction with nature. With his philosophy regarding the environment and humankind’s responsibilities to it, he said he was energized by the community’s sense of purpose.
“The core of what really excited me about this project was all of the far-reaching efforts for sustainability that are going on in the area, with the new Village Hall getting a Platinum Certification from LEED, what’s been going on with the Deering Estate with all of their supervision and observation of the environment, and the Cutler re-hydration project,” Wiener said.
“So that inspired me. Then the actual space that I got to create in is the ideal canvas to be working with, the obelisk and water feature and the way people enter the space. For an artist that does installations of large sculpture, if you can control how people approach the space and move around it, you’re able to utilize their perspective to create an effect.”
Nuñez thinks the project will have a lot of beneficial impact on the community, now and for years to come.
“It’s going to be one of our most welldefined landmarks in the village that’s not a building,” Nuñez said. “The other major component is that the artist will be working with two local schools to teach students about the process and incorporate the community as part of the artwork themselves, so they can have a hands-on experience with the project.”