The St. Augustine Art Association celebrated the opening of the TOUCH St. Augustine Sculpture Garden during a reception at 22 Marine St. Â Mayor Nancy Shaver, Art Association Board President Diane Bradley and St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Gary Snodgrass cut the ribbon and toasted the occasion before a capacity crowd of artists, patrons, community leaders and art enthusiasts.
Inspired by the annual Tactile Art Show for the Blind, currently on display in the Main Gallery, the TOUCH St. Augustine Sculpture Garden is a 450th Legacy project that celebrates art, explores history and improves access to the arts for people with disabilities.
Large-scale public sculptures perched above garden ponds in front of the landmark building are the most striking features of the new space. “Heavenly Bodies,” by Enzo Torcoletti, is an abstract figurative stone and steel sculpture representing the Old and New Worlds.Â “Signal from the Shore,” a Native American bronze child by Richard Weaver, is slated for installation in 2016.
At the base of Torcoletti’s sculpture stands a TOUCH bronze Braille marker with interpretive graphics and descriptions. It is the newest addition to the citywide historic statuary Braille Trail.Â Community docent, Peyton Short, a senior at Flagler College who is blind, was on hand during the event to read the “Heavenly Bodies” marker. The crowd fell silent as Short moved his fingers across the Braille and read the information aloud.
“I enjoy being out in the community sharing facts about the Braille Trail and our history,” said Short. “Someday I’d like to have my own museum,” he added, as the crowd erupted in cheers and applause.
The Art Association renovation also includes sphere-shaped coquina planters modeled after the “Old Spanish Trail” marker, curved benches, a coquina fountain, new lighting and an expanded entrance on Charlotte Street that attracts pedestrians during Art Walks. Two new ADA pathways along Marine Street draw visitors into the TOUCH St. Augustine Sculpture Garden, where they can begin exploring St. Augustine’s rich artistic heritage and the citywide Braille Trail.
“This beautifully designed public space is a reflection of the creativity that flows from the many talented people involved with the Art Association,” said Bradley. “ItÂ is an extraordinary gift to the community that will have a lasting impact for generations. We are so proud of this accomplishment and grateful to our supporters.”
The St. Augustine Art Association is open free to the public Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Founded in 1924, the non-profit organization promotes artistic excellence through art exhibitions, education for adults and children and community outreach.
The TOUCH St. Augustine Braille Trail/Sculpture Garden project was developed by the St. Augustine Art Association through a major gift from the Bradley-Mayer Family, grants from the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida and donations from the community. Â Fundraising is continuing through the FOCUS450th initiative and ongoing Art Association campaigns. For more information about the TOUCH St. Augustine project or to make a donation, call (904) 824-2310 or vist www.staaa.org.