The west coast of Florida has Venice and Naples. Officials at Ave Maria University are hoping that their efforts to support creation of public art on the campus and the town will make it what AMU President Nick Healy called “the Florence of Florida.”
Support of those efforts will be led by a new organization, the Ave Maria Foundation for the Arts, which was announced Friday at a ceremony marking the completion of the first phase of the large bas-relief sculpture of The Annunciation that will adorn the Oratory in the town center. The sculpture depicts the scene where the Angel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she has been chosen to bear the Christ child.
“This is beauty breaking free,” said Mr. Healy, standing before the head of the Virgin Mary carved by sculptor Martón Váró from Carrara marble. “Martón Váró patiently and lovingly chipped away at a 12-ton block of marble to reveal this form.”
“I am overwhelmed,” said Mr. Varo. “This is my life.” (At right, Mr. Váró discusses the work with AMU founder Tom Monaghan.)
The carving presented today will be moved to a spot by the Oratory soon where it will be on display until it is mounted, along with the rest of the sculpture, on the façade of the Oratory in about a year. Mr. Varo will spend another month in Ave Maria before leaving for the summer for Italy to work on two sculptures of angels that will be on the sides of the oratory.
The sculpture is the first project to be supported by the newly-formed Foundation for the Arts. The foundation’s executive director, Michael Windfeldt, said that the organization is inspired by Pope John Paul II’s 1999 letter to artists, in which the pontiff wrote that “in order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art.”
The first goal for the foundation will be to raise the money to pay for the Annunciation bas-relief, estimated at about $3 million. Mr. Windfeldt announced that one way the organization intends to fund its projects is through the sale of cast bronze scale models (left) of the Annunciation sculpture. The bronzes were to be unveiled Friday night at a reception at Mr. Windfeldt’s Galerie du Soleil in Old Naples. A limited number of 400 of the 120-pound bronzes, which at three feet wide and three feet tall are about one-tenth the size of the real thing, will be produced and given to donors who make a gift to the foundation of $25,000.
At a lunch announcing the foundation, Mr. Windfeldt said that an anonymous donor has already purchased “bronze number one” as a gift for university founder Tom Monaghan “because,” Mr. Winfeldt quoted the donor as saying, “no one ever does anything nice for Tom.” Two other luncheon attendees also purchased bronzes.
“God willing, in a few years,” Mr. Healy said, “we will have some stupendous works of art and people will be flocking to Ave Maria not just for the education, and the great music, but also for the art.”
Below, Sculptor Martón Váró signs a marble chip from the Annunciation sculpture for town resident Santiago Chaparro, 12 (right) at the presentation.