Client: Broward County Cultural Division Public Art & Design
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $220,000
Claudia Fitch, Artist, Mt. Vernon, WA
Fabrication Specialties, LTD., Seattle, WA
Two Ravens Studio, LLC, Tacoma, WA
GRID Engineers, LLC, Seattle, WA
Broward County Art and Design, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Broward County Art and Design, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Community Engagement, Art Instructor, Consultant
Dillard School Of The Arts, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Community Engagement, Manager Regional Library
Makiba J. Foster
African American Research Library and Cultural Center, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Installation, Lead Contractor
ESS Design, LTD., Fort Lauderdale, FL
OverviewIconic African symbols proudly celebrate community in Walking Sticks with Stories to Tell designed by artist Claudia Fitch. This powerful artwork is comprised of a cluster of five sculptures, tied to the project's commissioned goals to create an artwork that is reflective of the community. These sculptures reference the West African traditions of the Linguist Staff, comb, ornamental hairpin, Adinkra symbols and Kente cloth colors, as well as the stories of those who live, work, and go to school in the neighborhood. Community outreach activities facilitated by the artist provided the underlying themes for the artwork concept and imagery, which are meant to be uplifting. Artist Claudia Fitch was inspired by stories heard in community workshops where residents spoke of their personal experiences living in the community. Figures on top of the linguist staffs represent a bicyclist, panther’s head, mascot of the local high school, and Adinkra symbols. The brightly painted sculptures are made of cast aluminum, each dramatically rising from 12 to 15 feet high, silhouetted against the landscape and skyline in front of the landmark African American Research Library and Cultural Center. At night, LED lights reflect onto the staffs and provide extra safety along this busy intersection.
Walking Sticks with Stories to Tell was commissioned for the Broward County SAFE STREETS program within the NW 27th Ave Improvements Project. These improvements are a multi-modal street design to promote public transport, bicycling, and walking for human and planetary health. The goals accomplished by the artwork include: a pleasant and culturally engaging street experience for motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian; a vivid gateway into the Broward Municipal Services District; wayfinding for the landmark African American Research Library and Cultural Center; and ties to West African traditions and values. The goals of the SAFE STREETS program were realized through the artwork’s impact on the neighborhood, safety from additional lighting, and placemaking along this prominent corridor. It also accomplished more than safety and transportation concerns alone. Discussions and perceptions revealed by participants at community workshops assured that the artwork reflects family and community values, the neighborhood’s history, and traditions. This project transformed the busy intersection into a site of pride and storytelling.
These sculptures serve as a source of pride and a place-maker for the community. The artwork narrative was shaped by those who live, work, and go to school in this district, through stories and experiences shared in workshops. The artwork is located in a central public-use pocket-park within the larger campus that includes the landmark African American Research Library and Cultural Center, the Urban League, and Parks and Recreation. Collaboration on the project began during the design phase, surveying stakeholders from young to old, to reveal underlaying themes for the art concept and imagery. Claudia Fitch worked with the project manager and district representatives to offer meaningful workshops and a poetry slam session, held at Dillard School of the Arts, the Senior Social Club, After School Art Programs, the Old Dillard Museum, and the library. The ideas and traditions uncovered inspired the forms, shapes, colors, and patterns of the sculptures.
Artist Claudia Fitch describes her creative process in this way: "My past work playfully studies and reinvents icons familiar in art history and traditional ornament, with the intention to link a contemporary site to its over-arching cultural narratives. To create for a public place, I engage with the community, and the many layers of story that are told by individuals, local environs and regional landscape. In this process, visual metaphors emerge, sparking the imagination and creative process. The imagery, traditions, colors and forms in this artwork setting are staged to invite curiosity, conversation, and an exquisite moment of the here and now." Her symbolic sculptures fulfill multiple goals of creating memorable artworks, honoring community, wayfinding, celebrating tradition, and placemaking in public places. They evoke a spiritual tribute to cultural connection. Claudia Fitch earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Washington and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art. She has had numerous solo exhibitions, is included in public and corporate collections, and received many honors and awards. This artwork, Walking Sticks with Stories to Tell, was selected for inclusion in the 2023 WESTAF Public Art Archive Map.