Ya La’ford has been putting her distinctive mark of geometric patterns on paintings and sculptures around Tampa Bay for several years. Soon, she’ll translate her work into a significant interactive land art piece in Tampa. Titled Boulevard Flow, the installation will include a labyrinth-shaped park and a 10-foot sculptural metal sphere atop a pedestal.
It will be situated within the courtyard at The Boulevards at West River, a cluster of four apartment buildings built as part of the West River neighborhood redevelopment plan. (West River is a partnership between the Tampa Housing Authority and developers the Related Group.) The plan focuses on 120 acres along the western bank of the Hillsborough River, spanning downtown to Tampa Heights, with a goal to create a diverse community for people of all income levels.
The land art portion of the installation will start with a series of aluminum laser-cut panels arranged in a geometrical maze, inspired by the neighborhood’s roads on the city map. It’s meant to represent the movement of people, the flow of the Hillsborough River and oak tree canopies.
Shrubs planted on the panels will start out low and grow tall over time, making a living artwork that can be revisited for new experiences.
“I am delving a bit deeper into the way patterns can emerge when things flow and are connected,” La’ford said. “These patterns are not static objects, they are patterns of behavior — recurring themes in nature.”
The sculpture will be illuminated with LEDs. Its central location will be a focal point for residents of the apartments, who will be able to view it from their homes.
Boulevard Flow is expected to take six months to complete. A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony is anticipated for February 2022.
Building upon West Tampa’s history and adding to the community are at the forefront of the conception of La’ford’s design. The installation at 1345 W Main St. seeks to “highlight the interconnectivity between community life and the downtown Tampa ecosystem,” she said, with the labyrinth as a space to encourage meditation through walking.
The vision is that the installation will provide residents, tourists and pedestrians of all walks of life a nature experience against an urban backdrop.
“This artwork is really the ultimate confluence of science and art that has fascinated me throughout my career,” La’ford said. “I strive to create artworks that enable viewers to observe and interact with natural processes.”
Including public art in the West River project was in the plan from the beginning, said Leroy Moore, chief operating officer of the Tampa Housing Authority. A committee of apartment residents, the developer and Tampa Bay Housing Authority staff selected La’ford’s work from a call to artists, with the help of the City of Tampa’s arts program staff.
Moore said the committee was impressed by the scale of La’ford’s design, especially because of the potential for viewers to become engulfed for hours. The installation will be iconic for the West River community, he said.