What’s New at the Five-Way Stop?

This newly unveiled sculpture, that’s what!

After months of arguing its merit at City Council meetings, it has been paid for, placed and now occupies the east side of the Seminole Road, Plaza Road and Sherry Drive convergance, creating five streets that meet in a large center. It’s an odd combination but it works well, possibly because it is directly in front of the Atlantic Beach Police and Fire Departments, the offices of City Hall?

A few years back the city erected its first sculpture:

This puzzles me.  I get that it’s meant to evoke a wave (I think) but every time I look at it, I think, “um, skate park?” The buffed white concrete and the curvature of it reminds me of a skater’s bowl. Swoosh, up glides the skater til he flips at the tip…and swooshes back down again. This white concrete thing just looks out of place there, to me. As an abstract art lover I understand it’s in the eye of the viewer.  And I don’t like this one. The style doesn’t fit with the old school tide clock, street lamps, and now the bronzed metal,  fantasy sculpture. You could argue that it’s an extension of Atlantic Beach’s thoroughly eclectic residential style and you wouldn’t be wrong; true, that.
Our newest sculpture though, captures the ambience of Atlantic Beach perfectly: it’s a sea turtle-oriented place filled with residents who love the magic of the beachlife.  A girl, wild and free, swims along with this elusive, endangered,  mighty sea turtle on adventures only the two of them will share.  Although it isn’t something I’d buy for my own home (in a smaller rendition) or garden, I think it reflects the mood and motif of Atlantic Beach just fine.  

They put this sculpture directly across the street from the puzzling concrete wave. It’s a good enough spot, though, but many had argued for and against a more visible placement: the roundabout in the town center, where Atlantic and Neptune Beaches meet.  The roundabout has a grassy center where the Christmas tree stands each holiday season, and is empty for the rest of the year.    I followed the discussion of this sculpture minimally, via the newspaper. 
“It will obstruct the ocean view!”
“Who will clean it?”
Blah, blah, blah and et cetera.  But now that it’s arrived and has been erected,  it’s obvious that it would have been much more commanding over at the roundabout.  The two cities could have shared ownership of it and it would have become an iconic image of our beach towns.  Now I wish I’d followed the discussion more closely.  It seems a shame that it’s been relegated to the Atlantic Beach 5-way stop; although we all will see it regularly, visitors to the Atlantic and Neptune Beaches won’t… and it had the potential to be one of those things you remember fondly about a city you visited. 

(The sculpture was proposed for the area in the distance, between the two palm trees.  It would’ve been awesome there!)

(Oh well. It still looks nice where it is. It’s lit at night, too.)

On the southern side of the five-way is the much-argued-about tide clock which the city had set aside “art” dollars in its budget to purchase, but due to public disapproval had to raise the funds privately in order to bring in:

I like the tide clock too.  I think it’s charming,  and is in keeping with the design style of the old style street lamps they put on this corner. 

The funding of all these art pieces has been distressing to many residents of Atlantic Beach.  I honestly didn’t pay attention to the debates beyond a glance because in general I approve of things that improve the visual appeal of our town. Who doesn’t fall for ‘curb appeal’?  We love our tree canopy, have imposed height limits on buildings and restrictions on rental properties…all things that contribute to community character so why not support community art?   I expect the arguments to be renewed in The Beaches Leader’s  opinion column  of the next few issues, definitely.   I personally love the esthetic embellishments here in Atlantic Beach.   I believe that things like art, parks, wider sidewalks for bike paths, charming street lamps and so forth contribute to the reputation, appearance, and quality of life of our community.  And that also affects our property value as well.  

The City of Atlantic Beach has continued with projects that have prettied it up over the past several years regardless of the voices that argue against it.  Atlantic Beach’s vibe has always been laid back and inclusive.  The design elements make it charming.


  1. I'm Julia says:

    I've never understood those horrible abstract sculptures that find their way into communities & urban areas, especially the spidery, metal ones. I always figure that someone somewhere is laughing all the way to the bank.

    THIS piece is true art… it's fluid, graceful & speaks to the heart. I hope your nice community embraces & celebrates it, stopping often to appreciate it's beautiful poetry.

  2. I'm Julia says:

    Felt the need to come back & say: I don't find all abstract art distasteful, of course not! I'm obviously just a wee bit perturbed about those big "modern" pieces that look like scrap.


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