Artist David Best Builds Public Art Installation That Will Eventually Burn

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Artist David Best at the Coral Springs Museum of Art. Photo courtesy City of Coral Springs.

By: Jen Russon

Coral Springs will soon have something in common with Burning Man in the Nevada desert. As winner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge Grant of 2018, the city has been granted the chance to work with David Best, an artist who builds and then famously burns his grand temples at Burning Man concerts, and carefully chosen memorial sites around the world.

The California artist, who lives with his wife Maggie in San Francisco, flew into the Ft. Lauderdale airport on Monday. Best said the 40 feet high temple, which goes under construction on Wednesday, has no defined religious meaning; rather, it is a safe and sacred retreat for a community ravaged by the gun violence and deaths in Parkland last year.

Called The Temple of Time, the installation will be the first of five public art works, paid for by the Bloomberg grant. The curated series is called “Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art.”

Best spoke for about forty minutes about the temple at the Coral Springs Museum of Art on Tuesday night. Director, Julie Andrews introduced the artist to a large crowd, at an artist’s reception that offered guests food and wine.

The event opened with key speakers, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and each of the Coral Springs city commissioners. Joy Carter spoke on behalf of the late mayor, Skip Campbell and said that he had been instrumental in winning the $1 million public art grant. Amy Blumenthal, the main person to apply for the grant, also spoke.

After these introductions, Best took the floor and gave a slide show presentation about his newest temple project, set to begin construction on the morning of January 30.

“The materials [to build the temple] arrived yesterday. My crew and I will start building at 8 in the morning, and when the kids get off school at Stoneman Douglas – which I think lets out around 2:45 – some of them are going to come out and help us. They have been working on plaques that will be part of the temple,” said Best.

The artist added that there will be no names of the victims inscribed anywhere in the temple; that this is something visitors are free to add on their own, when the temple is finished. It opens to the public on Valentine’s Day, the first anniversary of the Parkland school shooting.

For 90 days after February 14, the temple will stand as a reflective space to release anger, grief and even joy. In May, the temple will be burned.

Best said that someone who helped construct the temple is usually the one who burns it. It is yet unknown, once the month of May rolls around, who will set flame to the Temple of Time.

Best said they [his crew of 10 fellow builders and community volunteers] had good reason to call it the Temple of Time instead of the Temple of Healing.

“There is no way to heal the loss of a son or a daughter,” he said, adding that he is not seeking any notoriety from building this temple; rather, he does it to bring a sense of peace and catharsis to communities who, because of unimaginable tragedy, are learning to navigate a new normal.

People listening to Best’s stories about past temples had this to say after the reception.

“I am deeply moved and blown away. With his crew, and the community, he will build the Temple of Time to memorialize and help grieve the Parkland Shooting. For 90 days people can visit, reflect, and write and express themselves on the temple walls. Then it will be burned,” said Judith Gulko, a psychologist who lives and works in Coral Springs.

Temple of Time, is at the site of Old City Hall on Sample Road, just west of University Drive where construction will continue through February 12. Watch the Webcam for Temple of Time here.

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Jen Russon

Jen Russon

Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.