Key West artist honors the island’s literary heroes
Craig Berube-Gray’s new artwork in Key West doubles as a spot to take a load off.
Have a seat on the newest public art to go up outside Key West’s City Hall, 1300 White St.
They’re in the butterfly garden in the back of the property, off Grinnell Street.
Berube-Gray on Friday installed two benches, dubbed “Speaking Volumes, no. 1. and no. 2,” in the quaint, quiet garden.
The granite benches, which city staff said cost the city $28,000 for both, are his sculptures that depict oversize books written by people who have lived in Key West.
“I wanted to go with something that hadn’t been done before in Key West,” he said Friday, taking a break from his power tools and lifting the heavy pieces together.
Berube-Gray, dressed in work boots, jeans and a T-shirt, said, “Oddly enough there is no place in one place that recognizes the literary history of Key West, and so what better place than on property owned by the city?”
The shout-outs cover legends like Ernest Hemingway and also contemporary writers like the acclaimed Judy Blume — who owns a local bookstore — and mystery novelist Michael Haskins. Frank Deford, the late sports journalist who called Key West home, is part of the sculpture, as is Thornton Wilder, who wrote the play “Our Town,” and James Kirkwood, the novelist and co-author of the Broadway smash “A Chorus Line.”
“I have [Margaret] Truman, Harry Truman’s daughter, she wrote this book called ‘Women of Courage,’ and it’s like the ‘Profiles in Courage’ for women. It was written in the 1950s. She was a major feminist.”
The benches were installed as part of the city’s “Art in Public Places” program, which requires all new construction to pay 1 percent of building costs to purchase art pieces.
“Employees use that park every day, having lunch or reading or talking on the phone,” said Liz Young, the city’s administrator of the Art in Public Places advisory board.
Young said Berube-Gray’s public art installation is the third one at City Hall and the first one to go outside, although a John Martini sculpture was donated by a local couple and is planted near some entrance doors.
The other public art is in the front lobby and the city clerk’s office. Big historic murals are coming to the hallways.
So far, four artists have been commissioned for projects that total $126,000, Young said.
More art is to come at City Hall, which cost more than $19 million and is a complete, eco-friendly renovation of the old Glynn Archer School.