Science and art celebrated with new “Mother Earth” sculpture at Mote Marine Laboratory

On Thursday, March 4 at 5 p.m., Mote and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts will host a free, virtual event to unveil a mother nature-inspired sculpture located at Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in Summerland Key. This sculpture, named after Greek mythological goddess of Mother Earth, Gaea, serves as a visual representation of the blended courtship of science and art. 

Gaea, created by Italian-born artist Gaia Grossi, was created originally as a part of the “Model to Monument” program, a partnership between the Art Students League of New York and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The “Model to Monument” program nominates advanced sculpture students to design, engineer, fabricate and install a sculpture that will be exhibited in New York City parks for about a year. Gaea was displayed at Riverside Park in New York City prior to being selected by Key West philanthropists John Padget and the late Jacob Dekker, to add to the growing display of public art being placed throughout the Keys as part of the Florida Keys Sculpture Trail.

Elizabeth Young, executive director of the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, initiated the collaboration with Mote Marine Laboratory’s director of regional operations, Allison Delashmit.

The connection between the mother-earth origins of the sculpture and the scientifically-driven restoration actively happening on our coral reef was “immediate and profound” for both Young and Delashmit. 

Young said, “the vastness of the Cat. 5 laboratory only complemented the robustness of the sculpture. It adds an element of beauty in the bustle of hard ground-breaking scientific work happening at Mote.” 

The sculpture, a massive concrete structure weighing around 30,000 pounds, sits next to a land-based coral nursery and outdoor classroom that hosts education groups from around the world at Mote. 

“Mote’s coral reef science is adding a beautiful sculpture trail of sorts underwater throughout Florida’s Coral Reef, while the Florida Keys Council of the Arts is weaving art through the unique landscapes of our above-ground communities. Mote is honored to be part of this collaboration,” Delashmit said.

The unveiling is free and open to the public. During the 45-minute presentation, attendees learn about the creation of the sculpture and its journey to its permanent home, take a mini-tour through Mote’s coral laboratory, and listen to Padget and his thoughts on the importance of public art. 

The meeting will be via Zoom, meeting number 81322814769 and passcode 575848, and will also be broadcast live on Facebook (Mote’s Coral Facebook Page “Protect Our Reefs” and Florida Keys Council of the Arts page “Florida Keys Council of the Arts”). 

More information is at and on social channels, @ProtectOurReefs and @MoteMarineLab. More about the Florida Keys Council of the Arts is at and on social channels @keys_arts.

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