Community Art Event Raises Awareness and Funds for Southeastern Guide Dogs

Southeastern Guide Dogs' Superdogs on Parade uses art to promote a good cause.

click to enlarge Superheroes on Parade guide dog sculptures in Curtis Hixon Park. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Superheroes on Parade guide dog sculptures in Curtis Hixon Park.

Michael Jernigan lost his eyes when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq on August 22, 2004. Without his sight, he told the crowd gathered on the banks of the Hillsborough River last Friday night, he had a profound feeling of loneliness and darkness. Michael’s first guide dog, Brittani, gave him back his courage, freedom and independence. With Brittani by his side, Michael went back to college, graduated from USF-St. Pete in May 2012 and became a motivational speaker.

Guide dogs have helped the visually impaired find a new lease on life for over a hundred years. To those whose lives they have changed, guide dogs are superheroes.

click to enlarge John Whitmore introducing Michael Jernigan. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
John Whitmore introducing Michael Jernigan.

Last Friday night, the superheroes were on parade in Curtis Hixon Park as Southeastern Guide Dogs unveiled Tampa’s first seven superhero dog sculptures:

First up? Newman, sponsored by the City of Tampa.

click to enlarge (1) Newman, sponsored by the City of Tampa. Artist: City of Tampa Public Art Committee - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
(1) Newman, sponsored by the City of Tampa. Artist: City of Tampa Public Art Committee

Next, Trusty, sponsored by Sabal Trust Company.

click to enlarge (2) Trusty, sponsored by Sabal Trust Company. Artist: Joan Garcia - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
(2) Trusty, sponsored by Sabal Trust Company. Artist: Joan Garcia

Harrison, sponsored by Hercules Fence.

click to enlarge (3) Harrison, sponsored by Hercules Fence. Artist: Vanessa Montenegro - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
(3) Harrison, sponsored by Hercules Fence. Artist: Vanessa Montenegro

Jeannie, the office dog, sponsored by Bobby and Meredith Newman of Newman Cigars.

click to enlarge The real Jeannie poses next to the sculpture Jeannie. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
The real Jeannie poses next to the sculpture Jeannie.

Cruiser, sponsored by AAA.

click to enlarge (5) Cruiser, sponsored by AAA. Artist: Eileen Goldenberg - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
(5) Cruiser, sponsored by AAA. Artist: Eileen Goldenberg

Vicente, sponsored by Morejon Real Estate.

click to enlarge Vicente guide dog sculpture - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Vicente guide dog sculpture

Berkeley, sponsored by Mise en Place.

click to enlarge (7) Berkeley, sponsored by Mise en Place. Artist: Shannon Thek - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
(7) Berkeley, sponsored by Mise en Place. Artist: Shannon Thek

click to enlarge (4) Jeannie (on the right), sponsored by Bobby and Meredith Newman. Artist: Arlene Ligori - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
(4) Jeannie (on the right), sponsored by Bobby and Meredith Newman. Artist: Arlene Ligori

click to enlarge (6) Vicente, sponsored by Morejon Real Estate. Artist: Lorraine Potocki - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
(6) Vicente, sponsored by Morejon Real Estate. Artist: Lorraine Potocki

Each dog sculpture was designed and cast by Scott Moore and associates at Moore Art Expressions in Port Charlotte, FL, to help raise money for Southeastern Guide Dogs. Thus far, Moore has sculpted approximately 55 identical dogs for the City of Sarasota in 2016, and another 45 for Tampa & St. Pete in 2017 (so many he’s now lost count). Local businesses pay to sponsor the dogs and partner with local artists who paint the sculptures, culminating in Superheroes on Parade.

click to enlarge Sculptor Scott Moore and associate watch the unveiling from a distance. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Sculptor Scott Moore and associate watch the unveiling from a distance.

After the unveiling, I talked to some of the artists about the inspiration behind their painted dogs. Trusty was named by its sponsor, Sabal Trust Company, a play on the business name. The artist, Joan Garcia, painted Trusty with sabal palm branches, also inspired by the company name. In keeping with the bank theme, Joan used old stock certificates to inspire the cape design.

click to enlarge Trusty guide dog sculpture - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Trusty guide dog sculpture

Bobby and Meredith Newman gave Tampa artist, Arlene Ligori, a box of J.C. Newman cigars and asked her to use the labels for Jeannie's cape and the wrappers for the base. The wrappers were moist tobacco leaves, and Arlene covered the base with them.

click to enlarge The real Jeannie poses next to the sculpture Jeannie. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
The real Jeannie poses next to the sculpture Jeannie.

Jorge Morejon, of Morejon Real Estate, and artist, Lorraine Potocki decided they didn’t want a “real estate dog.” Instead, they used Tampa’s Cuban heritage to inspire the painting of their dog sculpture, which they named Vicente after Ybor City’s founder, Vicente Martinez-Ybor. Vicente’s cape is the Cuban flag, and the base is painted with a rooster and cigars, as one would find in Ybor City.

click to enlarge Vicente guide dog sculpture - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Vicente guide dog sculpture

As I walk around the sculptures, I hear talk of favorites. Even Moore has his favorite dog. On May 1, the dogs were relocated to sponsored locations and public parks around Tampa, where they will stay until October. Southeastern Guide Dogs hopes to get an additional 30 superhero dog sculptures sponsored and painted before the next unveiling in June. Go to guidedogs.org/superheroes to see locations and photos of each sculpture, and donate $1 to Southeastern Guide Dogs to vote for your favorite.

About The Author

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer studied biology for six years, planning for a career in science, but the Universe had other plans. In 2011, Jen was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that sidelined her from scientific research. Her immune system, plagued by Scleroderma, had attacked her lungs to the point of no return. She now required...
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