A new outdoor public art installation has come to 30A and South Walton with the opening of the Watersound Monarch Art Trail, an outdoor sculpture project created by the Cultural Arts Alliance in partnership with The St. Joe Community Foundation.
It is well-known that Northwest Florida is part of the migratory path of the Monarch butterfly on its annual 3,000-mile long journey to Mexico.
Every fall tens of thousands of Monarchs can be seen enjoying the indigenous flora growing here. It’s one of the best aspects of fall on 30A.
Since 1992, the Cultural Arts Alliance has celebrated this natural event with an annual children’s arts and science festival, The Flutterby Festival. In November, the Monarch Art Trail was officially unveiled at the 2021 Flutterby Festival to the fanfare of local families, visitors, and artists in attendance.
The Monarch Art Trail is positioned along the paved path, which is the north/south thoroughfare for cyclists, joggers, and walkers connecting them from the fast-growing Watersound Origins community to the 30A bike path and beaches. It also represents a destination of cultural interest and eco-tourism, especially during the fall season when it is flooded with migratory Monarch butterflies resting on the perches offered by the sculptures and native plants along the trail.
The Art Trail features eight original works designed specifically for installation along the path connecting Watersound Origins between Highways 98 and 30A. Seating, lighting and native plants surround each sculpture spaced out along the mile-long route, offering the perfect vantage points to take in the sculptures and surrounding views of the restored longleaf pine forest.
The project offers the opportunity to educate the public on the importance of the health and safety of these special pollinators for generations to come.
The Art Trail is part of the CAA’s Art in Public Places program created to fulfill the vision to make Walton County a creative place and enhance the quality of life here. Other current and future projects of this program include the Underwater Museum of Art, the Highway 98 Underpass project, the “Art Thrives in South Walton” billboard project, and a Walton County mural project starting in Grand Boulevard.
“We are thrilled to work with the St. Joe Community Foundation to bring our first above-ground sculpture project to life,” said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “Public art adds enormous value to the cultural, aesthetic, and economic vitality of a community, and we’re proud to present a project that will benefit our entire population and inspire the creation of more public art in Walton County.”
“The St. Joe Community Foundation is excited to collaborate with the CAA to bring this public art attraction to the South Walton community,” said The St. Joe Community Foundation Executive Director April Wilkes. “The enhanced trail will be a lovely destination, particularly during the Monarch migration each fall.”
In Spring 2021, a national call to artists went out requesting design proposals inspired by the area’s natural environment and the Monarch migration. Out of 40 submissions, eight artists were selected for the project, including Jeffie Brewer, Jonathan Burger, Grace Cathey, Peter Hazel, Rachel Herring, Anthony Heinz May, Mark Metz, and Andrew Hamilton Reiss.
The artists were commissioned to develop design proposals and create a 3D piece of original artwork to be permanently installed along the Monarch Trail and completed their works in less than five months. The sculptures were designed to stand the test of time and weather the natural elements, being located less than a mile from the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Each artist is overwhelmingly inspired by nature and their works promote the spirit of environmentalism and ideals of less waste and mindful consumption.
Hazel, hailing from Reno, Nevada, created Dancing Monarchs with steel, glass, and mosaic tile. His work celebrates nature’s beauty with his major source of inspiration being Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish architect known for his individual and distinctive style integrating the use of neo-Gothic and Oriental architecture with ceramics, stained glass, and wrought iron work.
Working primarily in metal and wood, Reiss uses repurposed materials to bring a sense of whimsy and sculptural beauty bridging form and function in his art. Friend of Mine is akin to a line drawing brought to life. The art changes with ambient light providing fresh visual encounters throughout the day and from season to season.
This piece was created from an upcycled slash pine tree trunk. Brooklyn-based artist Anthony Heinz May’s work makes a nod to his Oregon roots and calls attention to the relationships between nature, humans and technology. Roost and Puddle offers the butterflies a place of rest along its migration route as it makes a stop through South Walton.
Herring, a resident of Santa Rosa Beach, has contributed two sculptures to the Underwater Museum of Art in addition to her sculpture included in the MAT. It brings her great joy to have these lasting pieces represented in these permanent natural locations that mean so much to her. Paying homage to her ultimate inspiration of the natural beauty of the place she calls home, she is constantly rejuvenated in her art by the colors, textures, and patterns found here along the Gulf of Mexico.
“There is no shortage of inspiration to be found along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida,” said Herring. “So when the opportunity came up to present a concept for the new Monarch Art Trail, I was honored to have been selected to participate in such a worthwhile project.”
Herring works primarily in graphic design but enlisted her dad for some welding lessons years ago and she then began applying for different sculpture exhibits over time. The natural elements reflected in her piece The Golden Flight, including the golden spiral created from the Golden Ratio, inspire the viewer to perceive different colors, shapes, and forms found in the stainless steel sculpture.
Burger’s piece is a 12-feet tall human figure representing a gathering of butterflies to describe the human relationship to the world around us. The butterflies that make up the sculpture are simplified to support the strength of the structure, however, and each one is to the scale of actual monarchs, which is between two to four inches. Notice how the light comes through this sculpture and what feelings are evoked as you stand next to this larger-than-life creation.
Metalworker Metz is the whimsical representation of the caterpillar perched on his throne of the Milkweed plant. Made from iron, erosion-proof stainless steel, and silicon bronze. Feel free to give the Milkweed King a hug and post your picture with the new king in town.
Cathey has been sculpting steel for 25 years representing the natural world through her sculptural works. Look closely to identify the four stages of the Monarch’s life cycle represented in her weathered steel sculpture. The name represents an interesting fact about the generations of butterflies, which you’ll learn through visiting the trail.
Tetelestai, Greek for “it is finished” is made out of 10-gauge steel and painted with water-based enamel. Based on Conrad Aiken’s poem by the same name, Brewer encourages viewers of this piece to take away something new from the poem and his sculpture.
The MAT includes eight original sculptures designed specifically for installation along South Watersound Parkway’s existing mile-long walking and bike path connecting Highways 98 and 30A.
The Art Trail runs alongside South Watersound Parkway extending from Highway 98 to Highway 30A in Inlet Beach.
The path is accessible via the 30A bike path, Timpoochee Trail, and is connected to the community of Watersound Origins via the crosswalk at Highway 98. Parking is available at the Magnet Innovation Center on the north side of the trail at the entrance of Watersound Origins.
Download the OtoCast App for a self-guided audio tour which includes a description for each sculpture. The app will provide insight into the artists’ creative process through audio recordings, descriptive text, and geo-locators.
In addition to the Monarch Art Trail, there is no shortage of opportunities for eco-tourism along 30A. These include biking through the state forests, paddling the rare coastal dune lakes, and snorkeling and diving in the pristine emerald green water. Another CAA project, the Underwater Museum of Art off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park, will complete its third art installment in late 2022. This attraction not only entices art lovers and divers from around the country and around the globe, it provides much-needed habitat for local marine life and fisheries as well as providing marine scientists, wildlife management professionals, ecologists, and students, with an opportunity to study marine life and measure the impact of artificial reef systems on the Gulf ecosystem.
Be sure to plan a stop along the Monarch Art Trail during your next stay on 30A. Wander among the sculptures and appreciate everything our miracle-worker friends in nature provide.
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Posted by 30A on Friday, 29 October 2021