Apopka to honor longtime Mayor John Land with two statues

from the Orlando Sentinel

To commemorate the man who led Apopka for more than six decades, just one bronze statue won’t be enough.

Instead, the city has planned a double tribute for John Land, ordering a $107,000 set of statues that shows Florida’s longest-serving mayor from two different angles.

One of the figures — a formal, businesslike version of Land — will stand larger than life outside City Hall with documents tucked against his side.

A more relaxed, approachable version of the former mayor will lounge with a bronze arm draped over a bench at Kit Land Nelson Park.

You might feel comfortable plopping down next to this John Land. Even snapping a selfie with him.

john land statues

Artist Peter Pasha sculpts models of the planned statues of former Apopka Mayor John Land. (City of Apopka)

 

In September, the City Council agreed to direct money left over from the last budget cycle to complete a project that has been in the works for years.

With the approach of Nov. 22, the first anniversary of Land’s death at age 94, it seemed like a “worthy idea” to give the project some momentum, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer said.

“Doing statues, I think, is something we should do before the memory of Mayor Land kind of fades into history,” Kilsheimer added.

But some, including city Commissioner Bill Arrowsmith, think commissioning two monuments might be overkill.

“I definitely feel like we need to honor the mayor with a statue,” said Arrowsmith, one of Land’s loyal allies and a longtime friend. “I would’ve been completely comfortable with having just the one in front of City Hall.”

Arrowsmith has also questioned the process for choosing the artist, whose fees total $24,500, and the Sanford foundry that is charging an estimated $79,688 to cast, deliver and install the two statues. Using a competitive process to award this work could have resulted in lower prices, he argued.

Despite these reservations, Arrowsmith ended up supporting the project out of concern for the message a no vote would send, he said.

Kilsheimer said he’s simply picking up a project initiated long before he took office in 2014.

“I didn’t feel like coming in and kind of stepping on the original project,” he said.

The city will shoulder the bulk of the expense. But 20 percent of it, or up to $20,000, will be covered by the John Land Apopka Community Trust. The trust is fed by private donations and also accepted a $200,000 contribution that the city offered last year as a goodbye gift to Land.

The trust’s mission is to work for the betterment of Apopka, and board member David Rankin said sponsoring the Land statues is in keeping with its goals.

“John Land stood for all things that are good about our community, and we think it is in the best interest of our community as a whole … to keep that memory alive,” said Rankin, an Apopka banker.

Winter Park sculptor Peter Pasha said he began designing the bronze figures about three years ago after hearing about it through a friend. The project spearheaded by former city Chief Administrative Officer Richard Anderson was kept quiet at the time because Land was still in office, Pasha said.

“With a man of the mayor’s humility … we had to keep it sub rosa,” he said.

So though Land was aware of the project, he wasn’t involved in it, Pasha said.

To capture Land in bronze, the artist studied photos furnished by the mayor’s family and met him to capture everything from his body language to his personality.

Pasha decided that Land’s statues will depict him as he looked in his 50s and 60s, which the artist described as a “good likeness period” for the mayor.

The 7-foot-tall standing sculpture will gaze toward the Masonic Lodge, the city’s oldest, still-used building, in a nod to Apopka’s history. The seated Land will face northwest toward where the Wekiva Parkway will help usher in the city’s future, Kilsheimer said.

With the election and change of administration, the statue project slipped into inactivity for a while. Pasha picked up his clay again only when Kilsheimer recently kicked the effort back into gear.

The artist is putting the finishing touches on two clay models, called maquettes, that he hopes to send to American Bronze Foundry in the next couple of weeks. The miniatures will be used to build the molds for casting the bronze statues.

Kilsheimer said he hopes the process will be finished by the start of next year.

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