When these artworks are unveiled — they, quite literally — will bring some heart to downtown Dade City.
The public art exhibition is being organized by the Dade City Center for the Arts (DCCA), a 501c3 nonprofit that’s working to increase public art and art events in the city.
The showcase planned for May 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature the installation of 14 large, 3D metal heart sculptures built by Pasco-Hernando State College welding students and painted by local artists.
Funding support for the project came from local businesses and donors.
The free “Take Heart!” art, music and food event will take place at Agnes Lamb Park, 14200 Ninth St., in Dade City.
The permanent heart sculptures will be placed throughout city-owned parks and along the Hardy Trail that runs through historic downtown.
The painted hearts measure approximately 36 inches by 36 inches by 4 inches, attached to steel posts secured to the ground, to withstand inclement weather and other conditions.
Artwork patterns differ on each heart structure, but generally include positive visual representations of joy, hope, love and beyond.
Event-goers will have the opportunity to meet several of the artists who painted the heart sculptures.
Other highlights will include arts & crafts vendors, a scavenger hunt, live music and DJ, and Saint Leo University’s new food truck, The Hungry Lion.
“It’s one of the rare opportunities the public actually gets to meet the artists who have created these masterpieces that our community gets to enjoy permanently, so it’s a chance for the family and children to meet real artists, working artists,” said DCCA vice president Lee Taylor.
The vibrant fixtures also feature QR codes that direct people to DCCA’s website, to learn more about the artist who painted the particular piece, and where to find more of their work.
“Those QR codes are really fun, because you can read about them and that’s fun to know why an artist was inspired to do what they did,” Taylor said.
Since forming last summer, the DCCA had ongoing discussions about ways to introduce art into the community.
Its team of seven on the board of directors settled on permanent public art sculptures, something other municipalities have introduced to their respective communities.
“Melbourne has turtles, Lakeland has swans and Chicago has bulls, and we thought, ‘What a great way for Dade City to kind of jump into the arena,” explained Taylor, a longtime public school arts teacher who also co-owns Out of Our Hands Gallery in downtown Dade City with her husband, Russ.
The group landed on heart-shaped figures, given Dade City’s official seal includes a heart shape surrounded by kumquats in its center. The city also assumes the moniker, “The Heart of Pasco County.”
Said Taylor, “We all came into instant agreement on the heart idea and thought that would be a great way to appeal to the city, the residents and also to the town council, ‘It’s in your logo, so how can you not say yes?’”
The initiative received official approval by the Dade City Commission in September.
Multiple commissioners at the time expressed enthusiasm about the project as a way to increase the area’s aesthetic for photo and marketing opportunities, foster community pride, and otherwise encourage residents and visitors alike to stroll throughout city limits.
Taylor underscored the importance of such community art projects: “We know the impact that art has on communities because it gives the residents of that community a sense of pride in their city, they rally around it and say, ‘Come look at us.’ It gives the town an opportunity to market itself as a place to come visit, to embrace the arts. It encourages people to be outside, and we all want that, especially to promote health and well-being.”
Since commission approval, the organization put out a call for regional artists.
Entries were received from all ages, backgrounds, amateurs and professionals alike, Taylor said. From there, the committee picked 14 artists to participate and complete the project.
Aside from heart-shaped sculptures, the DCCA has other ideas for other community art initiatives, too.
This past October, they facilitated a painted hay bale project at various park locations, which drew participation from families, teachers, students and others of various ages.
The DCCA also has discussed more professional mural projects for the city’s downtown area.
Similar to the heart sculptures, the DCCA would similarly arrange for a mural’s funding and labor, pending city approval.
If and when a mural program gets the OK, Taylor said the group will likely solicit help from more established artists, as such an undertaking is “a big deal.”
For information, visit DadeCityArts.com, call (352) 437-3204, or email .
Published May 12, 2021