Lakeland Tapestries


LAKELAND – You may have noticed that the chimpanzee was wearing purple headphones. Or the huge rubber duck with a crown on it.

These are just two of 65 mostly colorful works of art that have sprung up in large downtown Lakeland over the past eight months, bringing otherwise drab walls to life in remarkable public spaces.

Now complete, the “Tapestries Lakeland” project will be on display until the end of the year.

Supported by nearly $ 40,000 in public and private funding, the wall tapestries showcase the city’s commitment to public art, not to mention its treasure trove of talented artists like David Nelson Collins, who helped inspire the tapestry project and commissioned the works.

He contributed several paintings to the project, including “Women on Fire,” which is affixed to a wall in Union Hall which will soon open in the Dixieland business district. Her work evoking the recently energized women’s movement joins five other tapestries scattered along Hunter Street in South Florida Avenue.

The self-taught “late-blooming” artist said the ambitious nature of the tapestry project has raised the bar for other cities in central Florida.

“I’ve never heard of this in Tampa, Orlando or anywhere,” he said of the scope of the project which includes works by 43 artists in all, including a dozen or more students from the United States. local colleges.

Mural art has become common in cities large and small, as downtown facades are teeming with bold and colorful artwork. The street arts scene in Lakeland is only gaining traction, in large part thanks to the tapestry project, said Valerie Ferrell, project manager at the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency.

The ARC contributed $ 10,000 to the street art project – a temporary collection that could become a traveling exhibit, visiting other towns in Polk County. The hope is that it will inspire owners of commercial buildings to order permanent murals.

In recent months, the CRA has contributed an additional $ 15,000 to order permanent exterior paints from three companies – Tom Downs Antiques, Southside Cleaners and Boring Business Systems. Ferrell said his agency was working on ideas to raise funds for more street art.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Ferrell said. “We are looking at how to continue to invest in public art.

News of Lakeland’s tapestry collection spread, mostly through social media and word of mouth. A number of people have contacted the CRA to inquire about hiring their favorite artists to paint for them, Ferrell said.

“The way their work has been presented is quite interesting,” she said. “It’s great to have an exhibition like this on such a public platform. “

Using art to attract shoppers echoes business owners like Viviana Harris, whose client furniture store Vintage Factory in south Lakeland unveils an exterior mural on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Harris and his family commissioned artist Sydney Ralston to paint a mural that reflects the rustic, handmade furniture culture at 1020 W. Pipkin Road, well outside of the greater downtown area.

“Our goal with the mural is to add a fun art exhibit to the south of our city and to attract the community to visit our store and understand who we are and what we do,” Harris said in a statement. prepare.

All 65 tapestries have been mapped, along with information about the artists. The interactive tool is available at www.davidnelsoncollins.com. You can also see many pieces on display.

Most of the artists participating in the tapestry project were paid $ 10 for each square foot of canvas. Their works will form a collection that Collins hopes to display in other cities, if funds materialize.

“I would like to divide them into small groups and take them to smaller communities,” he said.

Eric Pera can be reached at [email protected]com or 863-802-7528.


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