TAMPA, Fla. — For weeks now, local artist Junior Polo has been cutting, sawing and prepping a new project designed to bring hope to the community.
“Because of the pandemic, I know a lot of people think everything is done,” the 45-year-old Tampa man said. “We want to inspire other people for the future.”
Polo is creating a new art piece for the University Area CDC’s Harvest Hope Park.
It is supposed to inspire hope by spelling out H-O-P-E. The sculpture, which is a combination of wood frame and Bondo putty, is comprised of four, nine-foot tall letters. According to the UACDC, the “O” will be replaced with a heart shape and filled with letters from the community expressing their “hopes for the future.”
“If you have hope, you have everything,” Sarah Combs said. She is the CEO of University Area CDC.
“Hope is so incredibly important right now. When you can’t really draw on anything else, you can always draw on hope.”
Florida Blue Foundation is funding the project.
If you want to write a letter of hope, you can:
- Email letters to JRocco@UACDC.org. Just put "Junior Polo/HOPE Project" in the subject line
- Mail letters to Junior Polo/University Area CDC HOPE Project 14013 N. 22nd St. Tampa, FL 33613.
The deadline for submitting letters is May 31. It is requested that submissions include a name and date on the letter for future reference.
“It is an honor for me to work on this project,” Polo said. “This project is a sign of what the University Area CDC is for the university area. HOPE is what this organization means in this community.”
The art piece is expected to be unveiled after it’s completed. Polo hopes that is sometime in June. The letters sent in by the community will remain unread and sealed in envelopes to protect them from weather.
After a decade passes, the letters will be made public.
Polo began working on the project in the final week of April. He moved to the United States from Haiti in 2007 to attend the University of South Florida. That's where he met his wife in 2010. Polo says he was “born an artist” and has worked on many projects that are even larger than the letters which will rest at the University Area CDC.
“We don’t know what will happen soon you know but we want people from this generation right now to inspire other,” he said.
“When all else fails, you always have hope,” she said. “Every time I run up against a challenge or obstacle that I feel is insurmountable I can always find hope in any situation.”
More information about Polo, whose other artwork can be enjoyed at University Area Community Center and at Harvest Hope Park, is available here.
Polo is also an art instructor in the University Area CDC’s Prodigy® Cultural Arts program.
Serving the community for more than 20 years, University Area CDC provides support for thousands of Tampa residents through holistic programming, adult education and resource assistance. Its primary mission is the redevelopment and sustainability of at-risk neighborhoods in the Uptown/University area, surrounding University of South Florida's Tampa campus. It will re-open to the public on June 1 after remaining closed since March 17 due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
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