A historic and cultural trail in Tallahassee will open in June – cialisdfr
A historic and cultural trail in Tallahassee will open in June
A historic and cultural trail in Tallahassee will open in June

The FAMU Way History and Culture Trail, an intergovernmental Blueprint public art project, will receive a grand opening event in June to celebrate its completion.

The exact date and details of the celebration will be clarified by the end of April, announced the head of the project, Tatiana Dagillard. The Blueprint originally envisioned the trail’s completion and grand opening for late 2023.

Spanning 1½ miles, the $1.1 million project will eventually have a dozen art installations and 11 nine-foot tall historical monuments.

The latter will have signs that educate and honor Tallahassee’s black history, culture and displaced communities.

There are currently nine art installations. None of the monuments have yet been put in place. The first art installation was completed last February, and the final three informational monuments will be in place by May.

One of the displaced communities highlighted by the project is Boynton Still.

In the historic, predominantly black neighborhood, homes were demolished and oak trees removed to make way for the development of FAMU Way and the History & Culture Trail, actions that were protested and drew strong backlash from city planners.

One of the historic monuments along the trail will commemorate Boynton Steele. “We started this project as a historical documentation effort to capture the history of some of the African-American communities along FAMU’s path,” Dagillard said. “From that historical document, we took it a step further to say ‘how can we create something permanent in the environment that is part of our infrastructure but reflects the history of the area in a unique way.’

The History and Culture Trail is the latest amenity in Blueprint’s Capital Cascades Trail Segment 3 project, which began in 2013. As part of the agency’s $350 million infrastructure investment in south Tallahassee, it joins other projects including Skateable Art Park and Coal Chute Pond Trail.

Community engagement and input into the project was a key aspect of creating the History and Culture Trail, according to a development document.

The Council for Culture and the Arts (COCA) and a “citizen task force” that guided Blueprint on the project’s “historical and cultural interpretations” helped create the trail. Seven artists from Tallahassee and the Big Bend area worked on the 12 art installations.

“The stories that the monuments reflect are hyper-local. And so we found it very important to ensure that we had local artistic representation among the artists that were commissioned for our project,” Dagillard said. “Our local artists know the taste of Tallahassee … celebrating the artistry of our local artists and the stories and lives they bring has been extremely important to us.”

One artist whose art graces the trail is Jacksonville native Alicia Lewis.

She moved to the capital city with her family in 2021 and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the University of Florida and an MFA in Business of Art and Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Lewis is also the founder of Brown Girls Unite, which describes itself as a “platform for empowerment through art and arts education” and promoting diversity in the arts.

Lewis’s sculpture, “For Generations to Realize the Dream,” honors Florida A&M University civil rights-era female students who fought against segregation and racial discrimination.

The human-sized statue depicts a determined young woman with a book in her left hand, a sign reading “we will conquer with love” in her right, and one foot on the top of a staircase in front of her.

“My inner guidance as an artist is to highlight the history of black women in America,” Lewis stated in a plan document for her and the sculpture. “This artwork is for those who showed their agency, strength, ingenuity, innovation and courage to step up during the civil rights movement.”

Benjamin Taubman is a reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat and editor of Florida State University’s student newspaper, FSView, and the Florida Flambeau. He can be reached at btaubman@gannett.com.

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