A children’s art park is under development on the west end of Marathon. BARRY GAUKEL/Keys Weekly

Marathon is set to welcome two new art installations: one at Crane Point Museum, and the growth of a new park on the west end of town.

Lori Gaukel, who owns Shady Palm Art Gallery, has been hatching her plan for four years. She is the process of developing a children’s art park on the triangle of land between her business and the entrance to the state and county government center located at 2798 Overseas Hwy., on the gulfside. 

“When we started it was filled with trash,” said Gaukel, “and poisonwood.”

Right now, it’s home to two plaster sharks and one manatee. There’s another on the way: “It’s going to be a ‘Marilyn Monroe’ manatee complete with the white dress,” said Gaukel. 

Right now the land belongs to the Department of Management Services, a branch of the state government. She said her husband, Barry, who is also a Weekly photographer, “lucked” into dialing the right number in Tallahassee. He learned that the state can’t lease land to a private person, but could lease it to a governmental entity, such as the City of Marathon. Lori Gaukel said the Marathon Rotary Club members like City Manager Chuck Lindsey, Councilman John Bartus, but especially Planning Director George Garrett have been instrumental. 

Gaukel is brimming with ideas for the park. She wants to build a stage and invite young musicians and performers. She wants to paint a community mural using residents’ and visitors’ handprints that would become, for example, a depiction of brain coral. She also wants grass and flowers, and has a fresh and local take on Chicago’s art in public places featuring the bull. In Marathon, that would be fish.

“I am so excited about this park,” she said. 

The second art in public places has been three years in the making. It is the last-but-one piece to be installed on the Florida Keys Sculpture Trail. There were five others installed from Key West to Islamorada before Hurricane Irma seriously disordered the Keys. “Bridge” by Jamie Emerson will be installed at Crane Point Museum. The art piece — shaped like a triangle with cutouts — features murals on the inside. The artist plans to come to Marathon in February to touch up the pictures. The museum is in the process of creating a suitable foundation for “Bridge,” so named because it formerly occupied a pier at Riverside Park South Waterfront.

The trail features sculptures created by the Art Students League of New York’s Model to Monument program. The idea is the brainchild of Key West philanthropists Jacob Dekker and John Padget. 

“Susann D’Antonio and I co-chaired the installation, curated it. We found every location, brokered every deal,” said Elizabeth Young of the Florida Keys Arts Council. She found the spot for “Bridges” while speaking at the Marathon Rotary Club. “Charlotte Quinn stood up and said, ‘I’ll take it!” said Young, laughing.  

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