By Eric Barton
Have you heard about downtown Fort Lauderdale’s giant mockingbird? Some people claim it’s as big as a VW Beetle. There are tales of it being spotted over by the community garden. And birders say they’ve collected feathers, as big as a couch and as soft as silk.
Just an urban legend, you say? Maybe, but soon there will be an art project that will help figure it out.
It’s called the Mockingbird Trail, and the idea is to create a walking path through the center of Fort Lauderdale. Like a hike through a forest, it’ll have designated stops with artwork instead of vistas.
It was created by the design firm Cadence, which got help from the Flagler Village Community Garden, the Girls’ Club gallery and the Community Foundation of Broward, which donated $20,000.
Rebecca Bradley, who owns Cadence with Gage Couch, was surprised at how many people came to the trail’s planning meetings. “There were tons of strangers who showed up, and that was a big deal,” Bradley says. “It became clear people are starving for this type of project.”
The idea morphed into using the trail to tell the story of the colossal mockingbird, Florida’s state bird, the story told like Native American folklore. The two-mile trail itself will snake through the Flagler Village neighborhood and feature mockingbird artwork. The first phase includes seven pieces, including a mockingbird feather. Some say Miami sculptor Valeria Yamamoto crafted it. Others say it was plucked from the massive bird as it slept.
“The idea is to get people to walk to places they wouldn’t normally walk,” says Ashley Turner, Cadence’s community manager. “Maybe we can get people out walking and following our art trail, and then maybe it will encourage them to explore more parts of the city.”
Cadence needs funding to keep the project going. But it has already attracted attention from local businesses. The Be Nice Restaurants group’s new Top Hat Deli, at 415 NE Third St., will feature an immense egg that may or may not be evidence of where the mockingbird hatched.
Fort Lauderdale-based BBX Capital has also been an early funder, giving $5,000. BBX’s Terry Frank said the holding company liked the idea of funding a novel art project. “The folks from Cadence just have great ideas and want to see Fort Lauderdale continue to be a great place to work and play,” Frank says.
The first phase launches Oct. 17 during the Art Fallout event. Maps will show spots to find art installations – and also clues.
Maybe those clues are just part of a novel art project. Or maybe they’re evidence of a giant mockingbird, whose presence just might signal a new era for a city.
For more information call 954-766-4572, or visit mockingbirdtrail.com.