Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Julia Tuttle Unveiled!

A follow-up of an earlier post in the Babes with Brains column.

julia tuttle statue miami bayfront parkJulia Tuttle can finally stand proud in the shadow of city she founded on July 28, 1896.

She's finally here in all her 10 foot bronze glory! The Julia Tuttle statue unveiling took place this very hot and sweaty morning behind the playground at Bayfront Park. Nearly 200 people crammed into an air-conditioned tent where movers and shakers -- from Mayor Tomas Regalado to historian Arva Moore Parks -- spoke on the subject of Miami's founder.

The statue is beautiful, thanks to the handiwork of Daub and Firmin studios. In a graceful gesture, Tuttle's palm extends upward holding the famous orange blossoms that convinced Henry Flagler to bring his railroad to the shores of the Miami river. That offering summarizes the story: "I gave orange blossoms and a city was born."

But Tuttle's skirt tells more. Bas relief displays scenes from Miami's frontier down days. The style is deliberate: Arva Moore Parks encouraged everyone to visit the statue and "touch Miami."

Tuttle wants you to touch her; it's supposed to be a tactile experience. She doesn't create distance. Those scenes may be from the past, but history is here and now. It's all around you. You're standing on it. You're looking at it. In a city that tends to ignore history, Tuttle's statue is a fixed reminder that history is always there, if you're willing to look for it, touch it and feel it in your heart.

There's something feminine and maternal about the work, yet also something strong and powerful. Her head is slightly tilted, looking to the side, so she doesn't feel like a statue, but rather an organic creature, who might have ironed her blouse just before posing. Her face is serene as if she was just about to ask you to join her for a cup of tea, yet she stands determined.

I simply love the immediacy of this statue. Yes, she's imposing, but she's also very real.

Most moving are the visionary words carved into her skirt, written just before her death:
"It may seem strange, but it is the dream of my life to see this wilderness turned into a prosperous country ... as surely as the sun rises and sets all of this will come true."
At the age of 42, Tuttle helped build this city with pure tenacity and grit. Sadly, she died at age 49 never to see her dream come true, so think of what it means to see her face framed by towering high-rises in the photo above.

R and B songstress Betty Wright belted out "I Am Woman" just after the statue was unveiled. Enjoy!

More pictures of the statue on Flickr.


swampthing said...

Lovely post, exceptional AIPP.
Curious what the price tag was compared to all those throw-away brittos littering the swamp...

MobiKeith said...

Maria, thanks for the great post, both depressing and hopeful.

Depressing because the city's fathers and sons summarily sold the city's soul to the Devil (real estate development). Hopeful, because maybe this is a sign, albeit a small one, in the direction of the politicos recognizing the importance of preserving the city's rich heritage and culture, just as other great American cities such as Boston, New York, Philadephia, and Chicago strive so hard to do.

We can not look toward the future without honoring/commemorating our past.


Miami Condo Shop said...

Julia Tuttle's bronze's a long time coming. Perhaps it's the one thing that's missing in this vibrant city. Great concept and nice work on the skirt. I believe the price tag is $200,000 as this was the amount that the people behind the project managed to solicit.