“If we can truly remember, they will not forget.” From Miller Williams’ poem, “Of History and Hope”

Submitted by Nancy O'Neil

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Client: University of Central Florida Downtown Campus

Location: Orlando, FL, United States

Completion date: 2020

Artwork budget: $82,000

Project Team

Artist

Nancy Gutkin O'Neil

Quaking Aspen Glass

assistance with digital files

Britt Melancon

self-employed

assistance with installation issues

James O'Neil

Jim O'Neil Woodworking

assistance with glass fabrication issues

Peter Kaufmann

Glasmalerei Peters Studios

Overview

“If we can truly remember, they will not forget” is a glass curtain wall installed at the entrance to the Florida Blue Parramore Room at the new University of Central Florida downtown campus in Orlando. The campus is located in the area where the Black community called Parramore used to be. The overall size of the art glass is 11½’h x 17’w x ½”d.

The decimation of Parramore began in 1938 and never really stopped – urban renewal, highway construction, etc. I did a lot of research and worked with many people from the community. My design honors the past and celebrates peoples’ determination to make a good life for themselves and their families, despite discrimination and adversity.

The design includes historic and contemporary photos, quotes from residents, excerpts from spoken word poetry written by local young people, Sanborn maps of the area as it was in 1956, listings from the 1960 Orlando Negro Chamber of Commerce booklet, and local plants from when the area was primarily a cypress swamp.

This project involved a great deal of work with and support from the community, for which I am very grateful.

The panels are made out of tempered and laminated float glass with fired in pigments. Fabrication by Glasmalerei Peters Studios. Installed in 2020.

Goals

The UCF public art committee had originally been planning on a different location and a different type of artwork for this project. The initial choice was an area located at a central part of the UCF new campus, and would have required that the artwork be thematically campus oriented, focusing on the student experiences at UCF and its partner, Valencia College.

As I began my research into themes for my design, it became apparent that there was a lot of history right where the new campus is located, and a story to be told – the story of the Black community, Parramore. With this new focus for the artwork, it was decided that the location needed to be a site that would be seen by the greater community, not just by the students and faculty.

There was a perfect space available as part of the Dr. Phillips Academic Commons, which already included plans for a glass curtain wall, and that is where my artwork is located. It faces major streets and can be seen by everyone going by, as well as from inside the building. It is designed as a street-facing piece of art, at a site that is used by the community.

Process

My process involved a great deal of collaborating with people in the community. There were formal meetings and tours of the remaining neighborhood, as well as lots of time working with individuals. I connected with over 30 people throughout the design development.

People were extremely generous with their time and their knowledge, and were very supportive of the whole idea. They shared their memories and personal, often very moving, stories. They also shared insights and information that kept me from making mistakes, which I greatly appreciated.

I also worked with libraries and archives, and special collections. The one real example of serendipity -- finding something wonderful that you are not even specifically looking for -- was coming across the Orlando Negro Chamber of Commerce booklet from 1960 (Florida Memory Project). The vast listings of everything that had previously existed in Parramore became the background pattern for my entire project.



Additional Information

This is a Florida Art in State Buildings Project.