Electric lineworkers are often the first of first-responders, especially in times of natural disaster, but their crucial role is rarely recognized. Public tributes are few and far between, making Lakeland’s sculpture distinctive. But it is all the more so because Tribute to Linemen exemplifies Platform Art’s commitment to offering student artists opportunities to work in the public realm. The piece was designed by three local high school students, and their design brought to life by artist Becky Ault and her fabrication studio.
Workshops and artistic development are a vital part of Platform Art’s student engagement. Ault and their art teacher worked closely with the girls at each stage of the process – refining ideas, designs, and models. Maddie, Gabby, and Angel won our county-wide competition (held at Platform Kids) with their design. Not only did they get to work with Ault through workshops, they actually traveled to her studio. They assisted side-by-side with professional artists, seeing new techniques and materials, and, for the first time, foundry metalworking. They visited places they’d never been – from a forge to an art college to an historic B&B. You can view their travels in the accompanying photos and videos of the experience. But, more importantly, this unique experience opened Maddie, Gabriella, and Angel’s eyes to new opportunities for themselves. Today all three have graduated and are taking college courses.
Along with partners Lakeland Electric, Polk County Schools, the City of Lakeland, and so many more, we unveiled the sculpture in 2018 and added a commemorative plaque the following year. We couldn’t have made this project happen without our community partners and generous supporters, and we are so grateful to every one. Grants from the State of Florida Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, support from UWUA chapters across the country, and a public campaign right here in Lakeland all made our work possible. See below for more info on these incredible donors.
Standing at over 12 feet tall and nearly as wide, Tribute to Linemen makes a statement both at a distance and up close. The stainless steel orb catches light off of Lake Mirror, and the drop pieces throw shifting shadows. The figure and detail of the lineman, as well as the figures among the drops, are only clear as one draws closer. Likewise the description: “The strength of one will energize many and be a light of hope.” This sculpture, which was inspired by a local lineman who lost his life on the job, stands as an important, permanent recognition of the work of linemen, our reliance on their work, and their significant impact on our community.