Fil-Am public artist Jefre Manuel's dream of creating sculptures in cities around the U.S. is turning into reality. That's as his latest design, a 151-foot sculpture, will soon become Jacksonville, Florida's iconic landmark.
The multi-million dollar stainless steel masterpiece nicknamed "Jax" has been chosen to become the centerpiece of a public Riverfront Plaza development. This came after nine months of deliberations, with the City Professional Services Evaluation Committee voting unanimously for Chicago-based architecture firm, Perkins & Will, which Manuel is a part of. Manuel's artwork beat two other designs.
"The public art piece shown in the Perkins & Will design has received a tremendous amount of public comment which I think really indicates its iconic nature," said Lori Boyer of Jacksonville's Downtown Investment Authority. "I think the inclusion of that monumental piece of art really threw Perkins & Will up at the top."
Manuel shared, "The proposal or the competition was to transform the six, four to six acre property on the river into a very active park that would have a hotel, restaurants. One of the big criteria was to have an iconic piece of public art."
He hopes his proudly Pinoy-made sculpture, which costs between $11 million and $18 million, will be enjoyed by generations to come. "We are immigrants here in the U.S. and I think you have to work three times as hard to kind of achieve what you want... You just have to walk through that door and work hard to actually be able to open the door itself, but once it's open now, the American dream happens right and the opportunities are definitely here," said Manuel.
At the age of 33, Manuel survived a heart attack after a triple bypass surgery in 2008. The health scare changed his views in life. "Everything I do now has to have a meaning and purpose, and has to have potential to not only have a legacy impact on myself in my career but on the city that I'm doing it. If it doesn't do that, then I'm just kind of wasting time."
Construction of the public space on the Riverfront Plaza park could start by January 2022. It is expected to be completed within the same year.
Jacksonville is home to more than 16,000 Filipinos.