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Parkland, Coral Springs win $1 million grant for art projects on gun violence, healing

Coral Springs and Parkland won a $1 million grant on Tuesday to create five giant public-art projects themed around gun violence, healing and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting.

These temporary art projects, spanning a 30-foot-tall sculpture to a paint-covered billboard, will sprout up in public parks, museums, libraries and roadsides in both cities over the next two years.

The award comes from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the nonprofit started by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also founded the gun-control organization Everytown for Gun Safety. The first of the public artworks could be unveiled as soon as Feb. 14, the first anniversary of the massacre that claimed 17 lives, says Julia Andrews, director of the Coral Springs Museum of Art.

“Our community is still struggling,” Andrews says. “When there’s trauma, sometimes there are no words. There’s art. The idea is to help everyone heal.”

The project, called “Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art,” was inspired by Andrews’ art-therapy classes at the museum. Broward students, teachers and administrators relied on the museum’s art-therapy program for months after the shooting, Andrews says, as an outlet for grief and anger. Visitors painted stones, designed mandalas and glued feathers onto wings, she says.

When Andrews told city officials about the program, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and Skip Campbell, the late mayor of Coral Springs, struck on an idea: five public artworks focused on community healing.

Bloomberg Philanthropies picked Coral Springs from a field of 200 applicants across the country, says Kate D. Levin, who runs the nonprofit’s arts program.

“This is a project that taps directly into the trauma of people who experienced violence firsthand, like emergency responders and students,” Levin said.

The first public-art project will kick off in January. David Best, the Sonoma, Calif., artist known for his temple-like sculptures at Nevada’s Burning Man music festival, will install a 30-foot-tall sculpture near the corner of University Drive and Sample Road, the site of the old Coral Springs City Hall.

Andrews expects Best’s sculpture to come down next summer. Andrews says she’s planning an artist meet-and-greet for Jan. 29 at the museum so the public can suggest ideas to Best about his public-art sculpture.

The other four participating artists are New York performance artist Kate Gilmore, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Carl Juste, New York artist-brothers Steven and William Ladd, and Miami artists Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar of R&R Studios.

Coral Springs and Parkland weren’t the only South Florida applicants for the Bloomberg Philanthopies award. In July, Miami-Dade County was one of 14 finalists shortlisted by Bloomberg for its project, a series of 8-12 public artworks that explore sea-level rise.

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