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Fort Lauderdale honors ‘Seminole Girl’ sculptor

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission honors sculptor Nilda Comas for “Florida: A Seminole Girl” during a commission meeting Feb. 7. From left, District IV Commissioner Romney Rogers, artist Ana Tarquino, Director of Parks & Recreation Phil Thornburg, Seminole artist Elgin Jumper, painter Stephanie-Gabrielle Sneed, Community Appearance Board Secretary/Treasurer Barbara Van Voast, sculptor Nilda Comas, Fort Lauderdale Mayor John P. “Jack” Seiler, artist Mei Ling Jaeger, Historic Advisor Brian Hill and Cultural Liaison Larry Mike Osceola II. (Contributed photo)

Nilda Comas’s creation of a Seminole scene was unveiled two years ago on Fort Lauderdale’s Stranahan Landing, but the 8-foot-tall sculpture continues to receive accolades.

In front of family and friends who helped the project on its journey, Comas was recognized for her work Feb. 7 during a ceremony at the start of a Fort Lauderdale City Commission regular meeting. Thanks to her “Florida: A Seminole Girl” sculpture, the longtime Fort Lauderdale resident received the city’s first non-residential WOW award for community beautification.

“I feel very lucky and I’m very grateful to all of you for giving me this award,” Comas told the commission. “Not too many times an artist gets to be recognized by their own town, and Fort Lauderdale is my hometown. I’ve been here 42 years.”

District IV Commissioner Romney Rogers presented Comas with a certificate of appreciation and gift certificate from the city.

“You don’t always get to do a first in a 105-year-old city, but this is the first community beautification award for the WOW award,” Rogers told the audience. “It’s usually done for residential properties, but the WOW award for community beautification was created last year and it was created to honor and recognize elements that add to the aesthetic beauty of our community that are not confined to residential properties.”

“Florida: A Seminole Girl” sits on the edge of the New River across from the historic Stranahan House. It features a playful depiction of innocence with a young Seminole girl celebrating life while clutching palmetto leaves. She is accompanied by Everglades’ wildlife in the form of a dancing crane and a baby alligator. Its colorful patchwork-design base features names of people who have made Florida known.

“The monument will leave a permanent legacy for our neighbors, visitors and children and will inspire future generations to preserve and protect the storied history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Rogers told the audience.

Comas, a native of Puerto Rico, said her idea for the project started when she received the go-ahead from the city to do a sculpture in honor of Florida’s 500th anniversary.

“If you give me a little piece of land in a historical spot that would be very important, I will together a group and will fund the sculpture ourselves and we will have a sculpture to celebrate the 500 years,” she recalled.

Comas and her entourage turned a sliver of land into a piece that now attracts community and cultural awareness. Rogers said the sculpture serves as a reminder of the Seminole Tribe’s “rich heritage, cultural contributions and extraordinary contributions to our city and our residents” as well as the Tribe’s friendship with Fort Lauderdale pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan.

Comas thanked several people in attendance who helped make the project possible, including her daughter and painter Stephanie-Gabrielle Sneed, Cultural Liaison Larry Mike Osceola II, Seminole artist Elgin Jumper, artists Ana Tarquino and Mei Ling Jaeger, Parks and Recreation Director Phil Thornburg and Historic Advisor Brian Hill.

Comas also expressed gratitude to philanthropist AJ Acker and the Seminole Tribe for their generous contributions.

“I wanted to give thanks and commemorate forever the [enduring] presence of the Seminoles,” Comas said about her sculpture, adding that “‘Seminole Girl, Florida,’ will be there forever and ever.”

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