The University of Central Florida has unveiled custom glass artwork at its downtown campus that showcases the rich history of the surrounding Parramore community. The installation was produced in partnership with Parramore residents and business owners, along with UCF and Valencia College leadership and spotlights community landmarks and milestones dating back to the early 1920s.
Created by artist Nancy Gutkin O’Neil, the piece is named, If we can truly remember, they will not forget, from poet Miller Williams’ Of History and Hope. The artwork features six panels of tempered and laminated float glass with fired-in pigments. The glass was fabricated by Glasmalerei Peters in Paderborn, Germany, and shipped to Orlando by boat in Spring 2020.
O’Neil conducted extensive research before creating the piece, touring Parramore neighborhoods, interviewing community members and poring through business and government record books.
The glass panels, some which are nearly 12 feet tall, feature photos of prominent Parramore leaders, landmarks, maps and excerpts from “We come from Parramore,” a spoken word poem made by youth from the Parramore Kidz Zone through UCF’s Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology and Entertainment. The background text on all panels is from the 1960 Orlando Negro Chamber of Commerce.
Among the many historical figures and community fixtures featured on the panels are: Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy, the first African American elected to office in Orlando, holding the court order announcing him the winner of the City Council Election in 1972; Goff’s Drive In ice cream stand, which was bombed by the KKK in 1951; and the John H. Jackson Recreation Center, which was previously the Colored Servicemen’s Club and later the site of the only community swimming pool for Black youth during the Jim Crow era.
“We are incredibly proud of this artwork,” says Ross Wolf, interim assistant provost of UCF Downtown. “In addition to the stunning colors and beauty it brings to campus, it pays homage to Parramore’s past and represents the hope that the community has for its future — one that we are proud to be part of in our new home downtown.”
The artwork is installed on an interior glass wall inside of the Florida Blue Parramore Room, located at the northwest corner of Dr. Phillips Academic Commons, and is designed to be visible to visitors outside the building. The Florida Blue Parramore Room is a community meeting space designed to honor the historical significance of the neighborhood and symbolize UCF and Valencia’s commitment to partner with the community in building the new campus in the Parramore footprint. Prior to COVID-19, the Parramore Room was being used for neighborhood association meetings, Parramore Community Engagement Council meetings and other special events hosted by the community.
The state-funded artwork was acquired through a committee-led selection process. The committee, made up of both UCF and community members, selected O’Neil from more than 200 applicants. If we can truly remember, they will not forget is now one of approximately 115 Art in State objects displayed at UCF that range from paintings to sculptures and ceramics.