Did you know Orlando has a garden that grows art? Get the inside scoop on the Lake Nona Sculpture Garden (pictured) and hear from one of its creators, Orlando-based artist JEFRË.
Long known as a forward-thinking destination at the forefront of medicine and technology, Orlando’s Lake Nona community is pushing art to new heights, too, with the brand-new Lake Nona Sculpture Garden, nestled at the foothills of the ultramodern Lake Nona Wave Hotel. Before your next visit, see what the Sculpture Garden has to offer and catch an exclusive interview with one of its creators: internationally acclaimed and locally based artist JEFRË.
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Interview conducted by Toni Caracciolo, vice president of marketing, Visit Orlando.
What to Expect From the Lake Nona Sculpture Garden
Designed for exploration and discovery, the Lake Nona Sculpture Garden is home to a distinguished selection of works from one of the world’s largest private art menageries, The Lewis Collection. Having just opened in early 2022, the outdoor space has already become a must-visit for art aficionados of all ages.
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The Sculpture Garden features four pieces by JEFRË — Faith, Empowerment, Time and Passion, which were recently showcased at the Orlando Museum of Art — but that’s not the only draw for art-lovers. You’ll also find the legendary bronze Charging Bull by Arturo di Modica, Mother and Child and Upright Motive by Henry Moore, Leda and the Swan by Fernando Botero, Jeté II by Enzo Plazzotta, and Cloister Conspiracy and The Don by Philip Jackson.
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Mother Nature provides artwork here, too. After arriving at the Sculpture Garden, you’ll embark on a relaxing journey through a canopy of nearly 300 hand-selected palm trees, encompassing six different species and arranged in waves of foliage as a nod to the curves of the adjacent Lake Nona Wave Hotel. You can also expect climbing vines and fragrant shrubs. Once the sun sets, the garden takes on new life with multi-hued lighting elements and night-blooming flowers.
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Best of all? Admission to this treasure trove of beauty is always free — one of many unforgettable reasons to visit Lake Nona, which is minutes from Orlando International Airport (MCO).
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Interview With Orlando Artist JEFRË
One of the Lake Nona Sculpture Garden’s key creators, JEFRË, has dreamed up numerous public artworks in the Lake Nona area and beyond. See what he has to say about not just his contributions to Orlando, but the incredible artistic and creative factors that help make us the most popular travel destination in the country.
Please note that the following interview transcript is abridged.
Visit Orlando: What inspires you about living and working in Orlando?
JEFRË: What a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of us come here to become creative. Orlando is a city of creatives. People come here to visit and dream, and we are the people who make those dreams come true. Orlando is full and vast of people that have moved here to be part of this creative process. And it’s really interesting that we’re not only designing and creating fantasies and dreams for people within the gates, but we’re now trying to do it for people who live here in Orlando.
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VO: Tell us a little bit about some of your artwork and what has inspired some of the work that you’ve produced and created here in Orlando.
JEFRË: A lot of my work here in Orlando was really the start of me exploring my own studio work. I started off as a public artist doing large-scale public art all over the world, creating site-specific work that talks about art for the people and the context they’re built in, and I started doing that here in Orlando with some newer structures here at this beautiful community called Lake Nona.
I sort of transformed these infrastructure objects, like garages, into works of art, and then started implementing some of my studio work that talks about what I think makes a great city, which are these boxes, or these giant silver metal sculptures that you see here in the [Lake Nona Sculpture Garden] at the Wave Hotel.
VO: How did you get your start?
JEFRË: I’ve only actually been doing this for the last 15 years, believe it or not. I actually started off in urban design and planning. And it was an incident that happened to me at the age of 30 where I had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery. And that’s when I cashed out my 401(k) and decided to do art competitions, and try to make things in this world that have a meaning and purpose, and create landmarks all over the world.
When I had this heart attack and decided to move into the art world, I really had an option to move to places like New York and L.A. and Miami, but I felt Orlando was a perfect place to be home.
VO: Some of the work that you have here in Lake Nona — there’s an energy to it, almost like an inner energy that comes out, that it’s just clean, it’s eclectic. Tell us about what inspired you on these particular pieces.
JEFRË: The Baks Series is based on the word B-A-K-S, which essentially is “box.” These figures, metal mirror polished stainless, are positioned in different emotions of what I think make a great city, such as faith, empowerment, time [and] passion. And these boxes on the heads are substitutes for buildings and when you put them all on the horizon line, it makes this amazing skyline of what makes a great city, which is not necessarily the architecture, but the people who occupy these buildings that have time, passion, empowerment and faith. And that’s what this Baks Series is about, is really creating our own city of what we think cities should be all about, which are those sort of emotions.
VO: In the parking garage at Lake Nona, there’s some special art and some special creativity that you have brought to that. Tell us a little bit more.
JEFRË: When I was asked to create a piece of art for the garage, I really wasn’t interested in creating a piece of pop art that you would attach to a building. I wanted the building to actually be the art piece itself, and transform the whole façade, including the stairwell, into something that talks about the destination and the context we are in, which is Lake Nona, which talks about Medical City, Innovative Village, and integrated these languages within the facade of the garage and the corner that sort of represents this idea of high tech and medical and medicine.
VO: Can you speak to the meaning behind the garage facade?
JEFRË: As I was developing not only this garage — I was actually asked to develop a series of garages. And so, I was looking at the high-tech village idea, the Medical City village idea, and looking at languages and physical forms that represented it. I looked at the idea of binary code, Morse code and braille as sort of these architectural vocabularies that I could integrate into a facade that sort of turned these mundane garage facades into works of art.
The languages that are translated in these architectural facades or works of art are all interchangeable in terms of what their meanings are. And the idea is that they convey a language of hope, dreams, engagement, creativity — all the things we want to see here in Lake Nona itself. Subliminally, the garages themselves as pieces of art actually help inform the user of what we’re trying to create here in Lake Nona.
VO: Final question: What do you think is “Unbelievably Real” about Orlando?
JEFRË: [A] lot of people don’t know the other Orlando — the other half that’s outside of the gates. The idea that we are transforming cities and communities here and learning of the things that we’re creating within the gates and how we can apply them outside the gates.
And that there’s so much diversity here in the city in terms of creativity, in terms of individuals who are making a difference, in terms of private and public partnerships that are happening here. It’s really sort of the people … that live here that are making this a world-class city.
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