Palm Coast - For years, the Gargiulo Art Foundation and the City of Palm Coast have dreamed of a Sculpture Garden around the lake at Palm Coast's Central Park.

That vision is now becoming reality with the installation of the first piece - a nearly 10-foot-tall, cast bronze sculpture "Burro with Bird on Shoulder."

The Palm Coast City Council, the City's Beautification and Environmental Advisory Committee (BEAC) and Arts Commission, and the Gargiulo Art Foundation will dedicate the tall burro next to the lake in a public ceremony at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Central Park, 975 Central Ave. The public is invited to attend.

The Gargiulo Art Foundation donated the artwork by sculptor Copper Tritscheller of New Smyrna Beach - and is donating four other sculptures to be placed around the lake in coming months. The first piece in the new Sculpture Garden was approved by the City's Arts Commission, BEAC and Parks Team, and the others will go through the same approval process.

"As you walk around the lake you can see the art from many views - the park is really conducive to that," said Foundation President Tom Gargiulo. "Our first mission is to support the arts - we have the Artist of the Year (program), and we support artists. What better way to support artists than to buy their work and put it in public places? At the same time, we're enhancing our community."

The Gargiulo Art Foundation, BEAC and the Arts Commission have worked together for many years to bring art to public places in Palm Coast. Perhaps most well-known is the panther near the start of the Linear Park Trail on Palm Coast Parkway near the Hammock Dunes Bridge. But there are also pieces at Daytona State College's Flagler Palm Coast Campus, the Flagler County Library on Palm Coast Parkway, Long Creek Nature Preserve, Waterfront Park, Palm Coast City Hall, and Wadsworth Elementary.

"Art and culture are a way to connect people, and we are very pleased to have this new amenity at Central Park for our residents and visitors to enjoy," said Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland. "I'd like to thank the Gargiulo Art Foundation and our advisory boards for their dedication to art and to this project, in particular."

The new Sculpture Garden - another step in the development of Town Center as Palm Coast's downtown Innovation District - will blend art, nature and technology, said Harry Messersmith, the curator for the project.

"We want to engage the viewer with reference to the natural world - to celebrate this place, which has been carved out of this beautiful pine forest," Messersmith said. "The creative mind fuels technology. Even going to the moon took creativity."

"Burro with Bird on Shoulder" is a nod to Flagler County's agricultural roots. Tritscheller, the artist, was inspired by burros in Mexico who belonged to indigenous women and waited patiently as the women shopped after coming to town from the hills where they lived. She said the burro is standing like a human to be relatable to the people who see and study the sculpture. Although the bird on its shoulder looks like a woodpecker, Tritscheller considers it a bluebird. And the burro and the bird are friends.

"It's about connecting with other people - given the chance we can all relate to each other," the artist explained. "That's how we create communities and take care of each other."

The Gargiulo Art Foundation is dedicating "Burro with Bird on Shoulder" in memory of Arleen and Richard Schreiner. Richard Schreiner was Flagler County Artist of the Year in 2012, the same year he died. Arleen Schreiner was the first person to make a donation for the new sculpture garden, shortly before her death last summer.

The second artwork for the Sculpture Garden - "Skater" - is planned for near the entrance to Central Park. Messersmith is the artist for that stainless steel sculpture, along with two others envisioned for the park: "Primordial Landscape" in copper, bronze and steel, and "See," an aluminum and stainless steel face with a large eye. The Gargiulo Art Foundation has also commissioned a fifth piece - a larger version of the "Wind Sail" at the Flagler County Library - by artist Pete Hokanson.

"People visit other communities because of their art, and I think that's going to happen here in Palm Coast," Gargiulo said. "The Sculpture Garden is going to be a draw."

For more information, contact Cindi Lane, Palm Coast communications & marketing manager, at 386-986-3708 or clane@palmcoastgov.com.