Artwork Unveiled for Sarasota National Cemetery

Patterson Foundation commissioned $2 million worth of public art for Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery.

When Patriot Plaza opens at the Sarasota National Cemetery in spring 2014, it will feature an impressive display of moving public art worth $2 million thanks to Sarasota's Patterson Foundation.

The nonprofit unveiled models and previews of the public art on Friday showcasing how photographs, tableaus, sculptures and more will be placed and displayed in the 1.83-acre space.

"There's not any other display of art like this that anyone is aware of," said Sandra Beckley, Sarasota National Cemetery Enhancement Initiative Consultant. "There's very little artwork in our national cemeteries."

The art will be integrated with the $8.3 million Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery, and the project is fully funded, including maintenance in perpetuity, by the foundation through a unique deal with the National Cemetery Administration.

"It all tells stories in one way or another—in different ways—but they all tell stories," said Ann Wykell, art consultant for the Patterson Foundation.

The theme carries through is "honor service and inspire patriotism" and each piece of art reflects those themes, allowing the artists to tell a story in that context, Wykell added.

"We're making connections and giving people to link up ideas. Sometimes it's across time, sometimes it's similarity of theme, but we're very consciously trying to tell stories as deeply as we can," Wykell said.

The art spans from the Civil War through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and includes several conflicts plus rescue missions, including during Hurricane Katrina.

"This will be the first Sarasota installation for all of them, but they all are very experienced professionals," Wykell said. 

A regional volunteer group helped the Patterson Foundation select the commissioned art:

  • Ken Irby, senior faculty for Visual Journalism and Diversity and Director of Community Relations at Poynter Institute;
  • Robin Nigh, manager of Art Programs for the City of Tampa; and
  • Mark Ormond, adjunct faculty at Ringling College of Art and Design

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Now it's in the visualization stage of how this art will come together in the end, but the organizers can only imagine the reaction of visitors who will observe the art.

"One of the Patterson Foundation's goals was to make an extraordinary space that gave a reason to visit— a destination—and the artwork is going to do that," Wykell said. "I think people are going to go back and say, 'you really have to see what they did out there.'"


Service, Support, Sacrifice and Witness to Mission by Larry Kirkland


When visitors walk through Patriot Plaza, they will immediately see 32 tablets telling stories through photojournalism  and quotes. 

The first contains 16 Georgia granite tablets with quotes from veterans and images digitally etched onto glass that will be inserted int the plinths, reflecting military life, in a set called Service, Support and Sacrifice. These tablets are 8 feet, 6 inches tall, 4 inches wide and 8 inches deep and are along the Patriot Plaza's north walkway.

Another set, Witness to Mission also uses photojournalism on Georgia white marble plinths to provide a narrative of U.S. history from the Civil War forward, called Witness to Mission. Those plinths will be 6 feet, 6 inches tall, 34 inches deep and 6 inches thick. Kirkland's work includes a memorial for disabled veterans in Washington, D.C.

"We started with photo research and probably looked at over 1,000 throughout the process," Wykell said, adding that the photography alone was a six-month process, but just to find the artists started more than a year ago.

Each word and image was approved by Steve Muro, the under secretary for Memorial Affairs, to make sure it met the National Cemetery Administration's policy on memorial art, including no nudity and no violent scenes, Beckley said.

"There are very few pictures of guns," Beckley said. "If they're there, they're not pointing at anyone. We did not want to cause any veterans any duress as they might walk through, and that is a policy of the National Cemetery."


Night to Day by Ellen Driscoll

Ellen Driscoll pulls together the life of a military family in a mosaic tile scroll that will be displayed at the base of the amphitheater's rostrum, with a 50-feet long landscape scene that transitions from day to night.

The scene represents how as a soldier sleeps in one part of the world, another one is awake for duty in another part of the world, and so is his or her family, with mountains as the base and blue stars for service in the sky along with gold stars for those who were killed in service are decorated along the piece, laurel leaves with stars for victory and eternal life, plus a strip of military service ribbons are displayed in the middle separating the two worlds while uniting the five branches of service.

"I think the mosaic is very timeless," Wykell said.

Driscoll also has two 20-foot-tall mosaic spires on the south walkways leading to the rostrum to complement the landscape piece. Sarasota's Red Linen Designs will supply the light-weight concrete for the project.

Driscoll also designed the gates to the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.


Sentinel Eagles by Pablo Eduardo


At the west entrance of Patriot Plaza, bronze cast sentinel eagles that are 8 feet tall will give a majestic touch, Wykell said. Pablo Eduardo's prior work includes a sculptor of Cesar Chavez at the University of Texas at Ausin.

Eduardo is working on revisions to the eagles before the design is finalized, Wykell said.


Home by Ann Hirsch

Ann Hirsch's piece uses eagles to tell more of a family life story, with one scene of nesting and another of an eagle mantling to push away its young out of the nest to learn to fly and survive on its own.

Located at the east entrance, one of these displays will be shown with a quote from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, "Let us strive on … to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his window, and his orphan…"

The bronze will be installed by Bronzeart Foundry from Sarasota in both Hirsch's and Edudardo's pieces. 

Hirsch was also awarded a commission to create public art at Boston's City Hall Plaza to honor Bill Russell.


Globe Inset—Patriot Plaza Art Team


A 19th century star map of the world will be placed on the ground in front of the rostrum made of light and dark granite.


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