New artwork adds flair to downtown streets

People sit at the downtown Starbucks near Rooster, a sculpture by Victor Delfin. The sculpture is one of four brought downtown by local businesses and art lovers.

Elizabeth Hamilton/The Gainesvil
Published: Monday, January 14, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

Right outside the Starbucks on Southeast First Street, a metal rooster sits on a metal pole about 15 feet in the air, its mouth open as if crowing to people desperate for their morning coffee.

Nearby, on Southeast Second Place, a large metal stag rests against the wall outside Persona Vintage Clothing & Costumes, almost daring passersby to get a closer look.

The sculptures are among a handful of newcomers to the downtown scene, artworks on loan from local artists and patrons. They will be celebrated Tuesday night during a “sculpture walk,” a chance for Gainesville to get to know the new neighbors.

Interested persons should meet at the rooster sculpture at 5:30 p.m. for an event that will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a happy hour at Dragonfly Sushi & Sake restaurant.

Nava Ottenberg, owner of Persona Vintage Clothing & Costumes, spearheaded the event after being inspired by art she has seen being publicly displayed in other cities.

“I decided to go and fulfill that in Gainesville,” she said.

Starting in April, Ottenberg began asking downtown businesses for donations to help offset the costs of displaying the works. The response was promising.

Several of the sculptures, including the metal rooster and stag, are from the private collection of the late architect Alfred Browning Parker. Ottenberg said she contacted his widow, Euphrosyne Parker, and she agreed to loan the pieces.

“She jumped right aboard,” Ottenberg said. “She was so gracious and so wonderful, and she loaned us these … very important pieces.”

Parker loaned sculptures her husband bought from Peruvian artist Victor Delfín in the 1960s. Parker said she participated because she wanted to honor her husband's memory.

“He loved art,” she said. “He collected art. He was an artist himself. If he was alive, he would've been very happy to be a part of that.”

Parker said she thinks exposing downtown Gainesville to public art is beneficial. “I'm all for it, and it will be there for people to enjoy,” she said. “It feels wonderful.”

Gainesville artist Jasper North said he got involved after a friend put him in touch with Ottenberg. His work, which he described as abstract modern art, was installed Sunday near Union Street Station.

“I think Gainesville really lacks any public visual art,” he said. “There needs to be way more color downtown.”

He said he hopes the art will allow strangers to stop and connect with each other. “They might not have said anything,” he said. “Now it gives them a reason to say, ‘Hi, what do you think?' ”

Artist David Bell contributed two steel sculptures of modern art set up in the 200 block of Southeast Second Avenue, one 7 feet tall, the other 9 feet tall.

Event organizer Mary Rockwood Lane said she hopes tonight's event will encourage people to create art for the community.

“I just have a vision of art all over downtown,” she said. “I think it would be beautiful.”

She said she hopes to see a large number of sculptures added to downtown Gainesville in the future.

“It is a testimony of what a small group of people can do in making a major impact in their community,” she said. “Everyone can make a difference.”

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