turtle trails

by erin thursby
Look out for the giant turtles! Not unlike the manatees and jaguar figurines that have graced our sidewalks and plazas, there are going to be colorfully painted turtles by various First Coast artists and sponsored by a number of local businesses and individuals.
  The giant jaguars and manatees were developed by Bonnie Upright, who engineered and coordinated both of those projects. She’s at the helm for this project as well, dubbed Turtle Trails.
  Turtle Trails funds the Child Guidance Center, which helps children with mental issues such as anxiety disorders, abuse, divorce adjustment and depression. At the Guidance Center they get kids on the road to recovery.
  Veronica Valentine, chief executive of The Child Guidance Center, told the Times-Union last April that the event was a good fit for the Center because it is different than the usual charity event and because it’s “something that would be child-centered and family-focused and would relate to what we do.”
  Even on the design level, of the turtle statues they keep the kids in mind. It’s true that real turtles don’t have knees, but these turtles will. In the past, the jaguars and manatees proved very tempting for children, who love to climb all over them. The turtles are actually designed to be low enough to the ground to be kid friendly. In fact, the turtles are actually on bended knee so the little ones can sit on the turtle’s knee. Like the jaguars they’re less true to life and more cartoonish.
  Unlike the jags, the relatively flat back of the turtle serves as a more of a flat canvas than the big cats or the manatees did. In fact, since the turtles are upright the artists will get two broad canvases to paint on, the relatively front of the shell and the curved back.
  The response to the opportunity to paint these animal canvases nearly overwhelmed the organizers of the Turtle Trails. Local artists from all over the First Coast put forth more than 300 designs. About 1/3 of those were chosen to go forward into the painting phase.
  These diverse animal shaped art projects have a higher purpose beyond the noble effort to give our cityscape color and to strengthen the identity of our city. On a practical level, these painted statues provide money to charity.
  You can find the first of these turtles on display at the Landing inside, at the top of the escaltors. This colorful turtle is called Monty the Monarch and is the work of Kimberly Stachurski. It’s painted with the pattern of the Monarch Butterfly.
  When the statue was unveiled, the artist was quoted by News4Jax as saying “The Monarch Butterfly to me is a symbol of transformation, and the children who come to the Child Guidance Center with problems, their lives are transformed.”
  The statues are sponsored by a local business whose name is displayed at the base of the turtle with a plaque. The turtle will then be auctioned off at a gala charity event in May of 2009.
  The manatees and jaguars are still a part of the landscape here in Jacksonville. Here’s hoping the big cats and sea cows won’t mind sharing space with giant turtles.
  For more info on this project, visit turtletrails.org.