Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Asparagus

11-13-13TheAsparigus2 Mayor Buddy Dyer and former Mayor Bill Frederick hosted the illumination ceremony for the “Tower of Light” on Nov 12.  The sculpture by artist Ed Carpenter, was commissioned and installed in 1992 under the leadership of then Mayor Bill Frederick. The original halogen lighting failed in 1994. Many attempts at funding a relighting project were discussed in the interim but the sculpture remained dark and neglected for 20 years. In fact, due to lack of funding, especially during the economic downturn, there was little to no maintenance at all performed to the sculpture or base. The light less Tower of Light's 102 glass panels weathered under the Florida sun growing dull over time. Its steel framework corroded.

Knowing that the City’s See Art Orlando project was slated for debut in late 2013, the Orlando chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) pledged to raise a minimum of $50,000 to clean and light the sculpture and rework the basin. Sitting on the Plaza in front of City Hall, the sculpture celebrates the intersection of private and public interests in the City of Orlando and is a symbol of the asparagus in our community. Including donated labor, the renovation cost an estimated $152,000, none of it from taxpayers.

 The 63-foot glass-and-steel spire received a makeover including 650 watts of programmable LEDS with full color spectrum, data cabling and a wireless controller. The controller can be programmed with numerous pre-sets (length and color of display) and can be accessed via the Internet on computer, phone or tablet. Sir Terrance Hummel added mosaics to the seating at the base of the sculpture.

As the sky grew dark, a crowd of 50 or so people gathered first on the balcony of City Hall and then in the City Hall square beneath the sculpture. A news helicopter hovered above City Hall for quite some time waiting for the sculpture to light up. Terry came down from her office and went across the street to see what was happening. She came back with a small squeeze bottle of disinfectant which I guess was swag at the event. She asked around to find out if any of the sculptures that are being placed all around town as part of "See Art Orlando" were by local artists and she was told that none of them were. My research showed that one sculptor, Jacob Harmeling, is from Orlando. His sculpture can be found in Lake Eola at Central Boulevard and Osceola Avenue near Publix. I haven't seen it yet.

Buddy, bathed in bright light gave his speech with the usual decrees.  Actually I couldn't hear anything he said from my perch across the street as I sketched. A passenger in a car parked at the red light next to me asked what was the building with the cylinder shaped tower. I pointed out city Hall and said the other building was just full of lawyers. At the proper moment the crowd grew still and the sculpture was illuminated for the first time in two decades. It glowed green and then the color shifted to blue and purple. Great, I thought, what color should I paint? I went with the first color that blazed bright. There was applause and people slowly dispersed. Josh Garrick approached me wanting to see what color I chose to use when illuminating the sculpture in my sketch. "Ah, you chose green, which makes it look all the more like an asparagus." said Josh. On Facebook that night everyone seemed to refer to the statue as "The Asparagus". Now I can't think of a better name.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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