Intelligent and well-designed public art has the power to beautify a city, drawing people outside and, perhaps, to hang out for a while. In our car-obsessed culture, the mere thought of a brisk walk might not make sense, especially in South Florida, where many streets lack sidewalks, bike lanes, and safe pedestrian spaces. Why would you want to walk outside?
That's one dense subject that the team at Fort Lauderdale's landscape architecture and urban designer firm Cadence seeks to change with its inaugural urban art project, Mockingbird Trail. It's a two-mile trail flanked by a series of sculptures installed throughout Flagler Village that were created by Japanese-Argentine sculptor Valeria Yamamoto will be unveiled Saturday, October 17, from 5 to 9 p.m., during Art Fallout 2015.
That night, a behind-the-scenes exhibition will take place at Cadence, which will serve as the central hub of the
Mockingbird Trail, a grassroots community effort, is the first permanent public art projected spearheaded by Cadence.
To make it all happen, an ensemble team was created consisting of Girls' Club artist Valeria Yamamoto and Flagler Garden, who worked closely together so Yamamoto could craft the story of Flagler Village through a series of public workshops and community feedback.
Yamamoto's sculpting portfolio focuses on the fusion of animal and plant forms, which is why the ensemble selected her. Currently, the artist's public works can be seen in Miami Beach; Hilton Head, South Carolina; and Tampa.
While the project's name — Mockingbird Trail — may conjure images of feathered friends, the trail will not include sculptures of an actual mockingbird but rather remnants and evidence of the bird. Visuals such as footprints and feathers will appear along the trail route in the form of large public art sculptures and smaller pieces.
In early 2014, the idea was sparked when Cadence's community manager, Ashley Turner, heard author Peter Kageyama, of Love Where You Live, speak at an event in Fort Lauderdale in which he discussed a public art installation, "Mice on Main," in Greenville, South Carolina, in which mice are placed along the nine blocks in Greenville for pedestrians to seek out.
Turner took the idea back to Cadence, which ran with it. The group was awarded a $20,000 matching grant from the Community Foundation of Broward as part of the 2014 Art of Community: The Engagement Challenge Fund. The team also had to raise $20,000 in additional funds.
"The northern mockingbird is the Florida state bird, which a lot of people may not realize," Turner says.
"Mockingbirds thrive in urban settings, so their population has grown with urbanization," says Rebecca Bradley, cofounder of Cadence. "We felt like he was the perfect mascot. And the whole idea of this was that we knew we wanted to do something with public art, but we feel like a lot of times public art is not so contextual, and sometimes people don't interact with it and appreciate it.
"And we really wanted to do a hiking trail, we wanted this to be in downtown, and we wanted people to think about it like they are going through a mountain, a rural setting, but they are really downtown. So we thought about those ideas and figured out a way to connect those two things to make this interesting."
Flagler Village spans from Broward Boulevard to Sunrise Boulevard and from Federal Highway east to the FEC Railway. Maps of the route will be dispersed at area cultural institutions and the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. A digital version is available via mockingbirdtrail.com.
"The route takes you down streets — streets that do have sidewalks, streets that don't have sidewalks. Some of the route goes through alleyways and park spaces," says Bradley. "And the point of it is to give people a different experience than when they are in their car. The ultimate goal is for this to become a destination — the sculpture trail can be traversed as the pedestrian chooses. It's flexible."
"I want to see this neighborhood activated," says Turner. "Did you drive today? When you walk, you move at a slower pace and make eye contact with people."
Once the launch takes flight, a series of events is planned, like a fun run, in hopes that this will become a catalyst for urban design improvement for the city and beyond.
Launches Saturday, October 17, from 5 to 9 p.m. throughout Flagler Village in Fort Lauderdale. See the behind-the-scenes exhibition at Cadence Pop-Up Gallery, located at 435 N. Andrews Ave., Suite 2, in Fort Lauderdale. For the trail map and more information, visit mockingbirdtrail.com. Free. Call 954-766-4572.