The site of the planned Lake Morton Plaza public art installation | Barry Friedman, LkldNow

A public art installation planned for Lake Morton Drive this spring is intended to meld the past of Lakeland’s first neighborhood with its present and future.

Lake Morton Place  is a collaboration which includes Platform Art and First United Methodist Church of Lakeland. Its location: a currently vacant triangular piece of land owned by the church, between the church lawn and Lake Morton Drive.

Other partners include the City of Lakeland, the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association, Lake Morton Century Homes and The Maguires of Lakeland

Primary elements will include depictions of the citizens and denizens of the lake and its environs, directional markers, and a neighborhood map. The forms will allow residents and visitors to touch and inspect them, and a lamppost will display directional signs and QR codes linking users to the websites of Lakeland creative organizations:

The overall design will center on a family picnic scenario with stylized life-size characters representing men, women and children surrounding a detailed street map of the historic neighborhood, laid out like a picnic blanket, with the residential blocks embossed on its surface.

“The church’s agreement to use that land was key,” says Michael Maguire, owner and CEO of The Maguires of Lakeland. Maguire is the creator, artist, designer and funder for the project.

Among other impacts, Lake Morton Place hopes to strengthen the residents’ attachment to the place itself and to ensure that visitors feel welcomed. Officially designated as a historic district in 1985, the neighborhood remains a modern version of its original form with a wide variety of architecture and living spaces that accommodate economic diversity.

“I love this place,” Maguire adds. “I moved here in 1994. It’s the best place that I’ve lived. I found my home. I don’t want to be anyplace else. I’m lucky to have imagination and resources to celebrate it.”

Maguire says that while many such places tout historic preservation, this project will focus on historic perseverance, recognizing that the area is alive and well, not mummified.

“I want to give him our full support, because it is our mission to do so,” says Cynthia Haffey, executive director of Platform Art. “It’s a pretty exciting project really. It’s really nice to expand our public art offerings in our city. It’s really great that the city is supporting this. And the church too. It’s a very unique project, especially in that neighborhood. And I think it will get a lot of use. It’s meant to be interactive.”

Although the project is in the early stages, the next milestone will be decorating a recently poured concrete slab with an embossed map of the Lake Morton historic district. Lake Morton Place is expected to be completed by the end of April.

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