Bartow’s ambiance reached a new level in the past two months with the unveiling — literally and figuratively — of public art.
Once the province of large cities, outdoor sculpture increasingly is finding its way to smaller communities, and now is a part of Polk County’s urban landscape in Lakeland, Winter Haven, and Bartow, adding to art forms like public murals that have been a feature of Lake Wales’ downtown for decades.
“Growing Seasons” was unveiled in March in Fort Blount Park, and “Modus Vivendi” was unveiled in the same park earlier this month. They are the genesis of a movement that public art enthusiasts hope will bring a growing number of both permanent and rotating works of art to downtown Bartow.
There is room for more sculpture in Fort Blount Park, located at the premier intersection in downtown Bartow and a short distance from Bartow’s first permanent building, Fort Blount.
Ambitious plans envision expanding the concept to a “linear park” on East Main Street.
And like many of Bartow’s assets, public art represents a joint effort of (and funding by) both public and private sources.
Participants (listed in random order) include the Crickette, Rotary, and Kiwanis Clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Bartow, the Community Redevelopment Agency, the Bartow High School Art Club, the Polk Museum of Art, and prospectively, Polk County government.
Those who participated in the colorfully named Yellow Jacket Stomp Adventure Run also helped fund the premier exhibits. You might say they invested sweat equity.
While it is a popular concept to try to quantify the value of such projects in numbers of visitors drawn to the community and ultimately in numbers of dollars spent with nearby merchants and restaurants, we prefer to measure the value of Bartow’s public art as an investment in quality of life.
By its nature, public art can be enjoyed by residents, county employees, and visitors at any hour of the day or night, without an admission charge.
Bartow, the City of Oaks and Azaleas, has now added a new dimension: the City of Public Art. It is a welcome addition.