STAAA Garden — An Artful 450th Legacy

STAAA Garden Plaza fThe seed of an idea planted nearly fifteen years ago has blossomed into a 450th anniversary legacy project at the St. Augustine Art Association. The TOUCH St. Augustine Sculpture Garden, officially opening in October, is an extensive exterior renovation designed to celebrate the arts and honor St. Augustine history, while providing greater access for people with disabilities.
The garden is one of three initiatives to make art and history come alive for the blind by engaging all the senses. First came the Tactile Art Show in 2002 when local artist, staaa Richard Weaver-Signal From the Shore Work in Progresseducator and gallery owner Jean Light-WIllis launched the exhibit at the Art Association. Students from Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) produce Braille labels for each piece of art and delight in touring the exhibit while interacting with the artists’ handiwork.
As the yearly exhibit of touchable art increased in popularity, the idea of expanding the tactile experience beyond the gallery setting emerged. In 2014, with grant funding from the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida, the Art Association unveiled the multi-phase TOUCH St. Augustine Braille Trail, an acronym for Tactile Orientation for Understanding Creativity and History.
In partnership with the City of St. Augustine, the Cathedral Basilica, Flagler College and FSDB, the Art Association project team designed and installed interpretive bronze Braille markers at five iconic St. Augustine statues around the historic square: Ponce de Leon in Anderson Circle; Pedro Menendez de Aviles at the Lightner Museum; Father Pedro Camps’ Minorcans in the Cathedral Basilica west courtyard; Henry Flagler at the Flagler College main entrance and the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers in the Plaza de la staaa Braille Trail marker2Constitution.
Each original plaque includes a raised, touchable diagram of the statue, historical and descriptive text plus Braille translations, proofed for accuracy by Nancy Berger, FSDB Braille specialist. The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation recognized the Braille Trail with an Outstanding Achievement Award for Preserving the Historic Landscape. A supplemental audio guide produced with local historians and artists is in development.
The starting point for the Braille Trail is the TOUCH St. Augustine Sculpture Garden, where two new sculptures command the public staaa DSCF8750space. Thanks to the generosity of her late parents, Art Association President Diane Bradley and her husband, Bill Mayer, kicked off fundraising for the capital improvement with a $50,000 matching gift campaign during the Art Association’s 90th anniversary celebration last year. And the community has been stepping up to the challenge to reach the $250,000 goal.

Read MoreArticle written by Pat Worrell

Author: Arbus

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