ON June 14, the city of West Palm Beach, through its ArtLife WPB programme, reached a historic milestone vote by unanimously approving local artist Michelle Drummond for a solo art commission that will be permanently installed in a public space in this city.
Drummond, native to Jamaica, will have the honour of being the first black female artist to be awarded such a prestigious place in the community. Her piece, entitled The Metamorphosis, will be an original artwork installed in the Urban Living Room at the Mandela Public Library of West Palm Beach.
Drummond's concept was inspired by the philosophy that knowledge and transformation align and empower change and rebirth. It will include a large tree symbolising growth, strength and beauty. The butterflies to be included will represent optimism and the unlimited possibilities that emerge through an organic transformation from one form to another. In total, the piece will measure five feet wide, seven feet high, and three feet deep.
The Metamorphosis will use multicoloured, multi-weighted yarn and glue on an acrylic panel. It will honour the city's Mandela Public Library as a resource for all with the goal of advancing society. Drummond anticipates that the work will be completed in six to nine months.
The programme that sanctioned the project, ArtLife WPB, is the city's premier art programme that commissions and presents a variety of projects created by artists at all career levels. The ArtLife WPB programme grew out of the Art in Public Places (AiPP) programme established in 1985 and the AiPP amended ordinance of 2014. Its mission is to shape the character of West Palm Beach through the power of public art. Since its inception, ArtLife WPB has awarded numerous art commissions to local artists, including black female artists, for temporary installation throughout the city, such as its recent COVID-19 artist relief initiative, The Commons: 15 Artists, 15 Spaces. The Metamorphosis, however, will be the first piece by a black female artist to be permanently on display.
Drummond's unique art form acts as an avenue to help her navigate and cope in unfamiliar environments. This proved to help her as she adjusted to a new life in America, moving from Kingston in 1995 in order to pursue her education at St Lawrence University in Upstate, New York. Many of her pieces incorporate elements of her Jamaican culture, acting as a creative outlet for the artist, with a goal of provoking deeper thought and conversation. Although her work reflects a touch of whimsy, each piece carries an underlying message of hope, perseverance and optimism.
“I have always been adventurous and a risk-taker,” stated Drummond. “I knew that transitioning out of a corporate environment and wholeheartedly taking the plunge head first into a very unfamiliar creative world would be another life-changing experience. I didn't know what the future held, but I knew I wanted to follow my passion and what felt right.”
The anticipated art piece is considered by the city to be culturally significant and reflects the aesthetic and cultural traditions and diversity of the city or the surrounding neighbourhood.
“After 23 years of manipulating multicoloured, multi-weighted yarn on and off canvas, pushing the boundaries of my creativity and the medium, while participating in numerous exhibitions, my hopes of finding the audience that would truly appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of my artwork came to fruition. It is an honour, especially being the first black female artist and also of Jamaican heritage to be awarded this permanent solo public art commission by the city of West Palm Beach ArtLife WPB programme,” she said.
Not only will this permanent installation act as a significant milestone in Drummond's career, it is a momentous event for the city of West Palm Beach.
Administrator of Public Art and Culture for the city of West Palm Beach, Sybille Welter, expressed excitement for the upcoming installation.
“Michelle Drummond is the first black female artist to be awarded a permanent solo public art commission by the city of West Palm Beach ArtLife WPB programme,” stated Welter. “We are thrilled to have an artist whose work reflects the cultural diversity of the city.”