Client: Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
Location: Jacksonville, FL, United States
Completion date: 2020
Artwork budget: $100,800
Babcock Artworks LLC
client project manager
Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
Song of the Skinks is a sculpture installation that functions as a musical instrument. It’s adjacent to a playground in a public park in Jacksonville, Florida.
The site is in a neighborhood of immigrants and refugees from all over the world, many with limited English proficiency. The community center in the park often hosts sporting events for wheelchair users and visually impaired people. I settled on music as a universal language that can bring all of these constituencies together.
The sculptures are plosive aerophones – musical instruments that are played by striking the open ends of tubes. Pitch is determined by tube length. The artwork offers 16 different notes, tuned to concert pitch: a full octave with all 12 half-steps, plus a few outliers. Each tube is labeled with the note it makes.
The sculptures represent blue-tailed skinks in fanciful and mixed-up poses. I was inspired by the quick little lizards which seem to occupy every outdoor surface (and some indoor surfaces) in Jacksonville.
The project started with a community engagement process to find out what needs could be met with this public art project. I met with park users and various organizations that serve the diverse community. Inclusiveness, accessibility, and reaching out to kids were themes that came up over and over in our discussions, and set the groundwork for my design.
The community engagement process and selection of final design were facilitated by my client, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.
Meeting musical, structural, and regulatory requirements meant the complex shapes of the bent tubes needed to be very accurate. The tubes were bent by Nissin Precision Machines in Japan, using their CNC free-form tube bender.
stainless steel and thermoplastic coating completed 2020 10'H x 24'W x 4'D