UNF’s ‘Seaside Sculpture Park’ brings more public art to the beach


Jacksonville Beach visitors can expect to see a few more colorful sights on their seaside strolls, with the installation of five original sculptures at the University of North Florida’s (UNF) Seaside Sculpture Park.

Unveiled June 20 with an unconventional “ribbon-cutting ceremony” – whereby UNF student artists blazed through a strip of metal with a blowtorch – the new park located at 480 First St. in Jacksonville Beach features sculptures created by UNF students. Among the sculptures on display are Mary Ratcliff’s “Symbiosis,” Gillian Harper’s “Ongoing Life,” Emily Pinnell’s “Still Swimming,” Diana Shepherd’s “Wild Bird,” and David Peters’ “Ode to Franklin County.”

Pinnell’s piece features an added layer of interactivity with the inclusion of kinetic parts that move and chime in the wind, while Ratcliff’s “Symbiosis” features solar-powered panels that collect energy to light the sculpture’s orb.

“I just hope people who see it can form some kind of connection with the piece,” Ratcliff said of her abstract depiction of sea anemone and a clown fish.

Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham lauded the efforts of all those involved for bringing the park to the area.

“Thank you for taking this once empty, vacant lot and turning it into something to be enjoyed,” Latham said. “And for the next year, this park will be free for everybody to enjoy.”

Conceptualized over a year ago, the park is the result of a collaboration among UNF, MountainStar Capital – which donated the land for the park – and the Lazzara Family Foundation. MountainStar and the foundation provided a $50,000 donation to UNF to support the sculpture program, while the City of Jacksonville Beach and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville also aided in the project’s development.

According to MountainStar Capital CEO Christopher Lazzara, the project had three concrete goals: beautifying Jacksonville Beach through public art, bringing awareness to UNF’s art department, and honoring the work of the university’s sculpture students, five of whom were chosen as finalists.

“The hard work and dedication of these sculpture students is inspiring,” he said. “Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with us so that all members of this community can enjoy these creative, expressive and beautiful works of art.”

UNF Associate Professor of Sculpture Dr. Jenny Hager said the program provides the students with a public forum for their work.

“It’s a great experience for students because we get to provide them with opportunities they might not always be afforded,” Hager said. “At other universities, these types of opportunities go to graduate students. At UNF, our focus is undergrads. These unique opportunities really allow our students to shine post-graduation.”

The UNF Seaside Sculpture Park is located at 480 First St. S. in Jacksonville Beach. The sculptures will be lighted for nighttime viewing. Visit www.pontevedrarecorder.com for a gallery of the art pieces and grand opening.