WINTER HAVEN – Many cities across the nation have programs that allow businesses to purchase fiberglass sculptures, painted by artists, to benefit local art projects.
In 1998, for example, fiberglass swans were sold to purchase and renovate the historic Kress building from the City of Lakeland to help open the Explorations V Children's Museum in 2000.
Over the past year, members of the Winter Haven Cultural Arts Advisory Committee have been working toward a plan of selling blank fiberglass Zebra Longwing Butterfly sculptures for businesses to purchase — and artists to paint — to fund a new art museum in Winter Haven.
Members of the committee will be hosting a workshop about the project at the Winter Haven Public Library, located in the city’s downtown district, on Saturday, Jan. 10 at 10 a.m. They will then relay their ideas to the Winter Haven City Commission at an agenda review meeting Wednesday, Jan. 22, starting at 6:30 p.m.
At a Winter Haven Cultural Arts Advisory meeting Dec. 10, Vice Chair Kurtis Flanders said ultimately the committee would like to sell 30 to 40 plain fiberglass Zebra Longwing Butterfly sculptures to local business owners, possibly to raise funds to transform city hall into a “kunsthal” art museum, in the event that city hall is moved into Nora Mayo Hall in the future.
If the plan is passed by the Winter Haven City Commission, possibly as early as a city commission meeting Feb. 10, members of the committee would like to initiate the project by selling three sculptures to the City of Winter Haven — one to be placed in Central Park and the other two possibly to be placed at the AdventHealth Fieldhouse and the Winter Haven Recreation and Cultural Center. None of these ideas will be formally adopted without city commission input.
The first step of the project was picking a city mascot. At a Jan. 28, 2019, Winter Haven City Commission meeting, Flanders and Winter Haven Cultural Arts Advisory Committee Chair Judy Cleaves proposed the Zebra Longwing Butterfly.
“We can use this symbol to unite Winter Haven and enrich the community,” Flanders said. “The City of Lakeland used its chosen mascot during the city art project Swansation to bring in $370,000 for a local children's museum and several non-profits.”
The Zebra Longwing Butterfly has already beautified a few places around the downtown area. In 2019, volunteers with Arts Ensemble Downtown, Growing Positivity, Outer Space Gallery and members of the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee teamed up to place a public piano downtown, adorned with brightly colored butterflies.
Before that, Outback Oasis owner Paul Schulz was commissioned to paint a Zebra Longwing Butterfly on a utility box in South Central Park in late 2018.
“We are convinced that the Zebra Longwing Butterfly is the absolute best choice for Winter Haven's mascot,” Flanders said. “A butterfly is symbolic in many theologies, representing change or transformation — beauty, life and so much more.”
The Zebra Longwing Butterfly has been the state butterfly of Florida since 1996. It's the only species known to eat pollen and drink nectar, and the butterflies live five or six months, which is longer than other butterflies.
“Shouldn't our city mascot represent that we are unique, and that we work hard towards extended longevity?” Flanders asked the commissioners last year.
The commissioners agreed unanimously.