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‘Seminole Girl’ returns to Fort Lauderdale site

“Seminole Girl” sits along the New River in Fort Lauderdale. The Riverside Hotel is in the background. (Photo Damon Scott)

FORT LAUDERDALE – The popular sculpture “Florida: A Seminole Girl” in Fort Lauderdale was recently returned to its home along the New River after undergoing rehabilitation work.

The eight-foot tall bronze sculpture features a playful-looking, five-year-old Seminole girl clutching palmetto leaves. She is accompanied by a dancing crane and a baby alligator.

“It’s become an icon in Fort Lauderdale,” Nilda Comas, the artist who created the sculpture, said.

Comas oversaw its rehabilitation, which consisted of making the palmetto fronds sturdier. She said it’s the second time the sculpture has had work done to it since it was installed in 2015. The first involved repairing damage to the alligator tail.

The Miami-based bronze foundry Comas originally worked with on the sculpture – Art & Sculpture Unlimited – performed the latest rehabilitation work.

“It took months. I wanted them to be the one; they use the same bronze, the same alloy. They did the original cast and love the piece,” Comas said.

The city of Fort Lauderdale owns the sculpture and paid for the rehabilitation work. Its care falls under the auspices of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department.

Seminole story

Comas said she first developed the idea for the sculpture while the state of Florida was making plans to celebrate its 500-year anniversary in 2013. She’d done research on the original Indigenous occupants of Florida and ended up at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Reservation, where she said she spent considerable time with the staff. Comas learned about Seminole life in the 1900s – clothes that were worn, which animals roamed the area – and that palm fronds were used to thatch roofs on chickees.

In the midst of her research, she had something of a chance encounter with the late Jimmy Osceola at her art studio in Fort Lauderdale.

“Jimmy knocked on my door one day and inquired about painting classes,” Comas said. “He said he’d seen my work around town.”

Months later she also met Elgin Jumper, who became one of her art students. Osceola and Jumper would help Comas learn more about the tribe and assist with securing tribal support for the sculpture. The tribe agreed to pay for half of the cost.

The sculpture’s pedestal is comprised of 500 Seminole patchwork tiles – 100 that were purchased by project sponsors – including the Seminole Tribe – and 400 that were donated by philanthropist AJ Acker. The tiles were named for people who represent the region, including several tribal members.

Comas also tapped Ahfachkee School students to create 76 hand painted tiles for the base of the pedestal, which incorporate Native symbols like birds, fish, turtles, chickees, horses and vistas.

The city of Fort Lauderdale donated the spot where the sculpture stands – located just across the waterway from the historic Stranahan House, home to former city pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan. In the late 1800s and early 1900s Seminoles traded alligator hides and bird plumes with Frank Stranahan for sugar, flour, beads and other commodities. It was considered a fitting spot to note the long history and presence of the Seminoles in the state and along Fort Lauderdale’s New River.

Comas is from Puerto Rico, but has split her time between Fort Lauderdale and the town of Pietrasanta, Italy, for many years. Her other Fort Lauderdale sculptures include “Lil’ Blader” at Colee Hammock Park, “Play Ball” at Holiday Park and two bronze pieces located at the Tequesta Indian sculpture in Lewis Landing Park.

Comas said she has always felt a close affinity to the “Seminole Girl” sculpture and the Seminole Tribe. She hopes one day the sculpture can acquire better lighting so residents and visitors to see it more clearly at night.

Artist Nilda Comas in her Fort Lauderdale art studio Feb. 21, near a poster of her sculpture and a traditional Seminole doll. (Photo Damon Scott)
Nilda Comas’ prototype for the “Seminole Girl” sculpture sits in her Fort Lauderdale art studio. (Photo Damon Scott)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at