Three days after 25,000 flags were stuck in the grass for a Sept. 11 commemoration, the first few of what likely will be hundreds of plastic pink flamingos began flocking on the lawn in front of Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center For the Performing Arts in preparation of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Welcome to what Orlando Commissioner Robert Stuart called “Orlando’s front lawn.”
The planners and operators of the Dr. Phillips Center have always envisioned Senneff Arts Plaza as being a town square for the city, full of public gatherings and events, Food Truck Fridays, outdoor concerts, and the occasional memorial. The vision harkens to New York City’s Bryant Park or the plazas and piazzas of Europe.
But the outpouring of community grief and healing that took place there following the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub both accelerated and changed that vision, even if the full build-out and realization of the vision remain years away.
“It’s really evolved,” said Katherine Ramsberger, president of the Dr. Phillips Center.
The lawn became hallowed ground on June 12 when people, in shock and seeking a place to express themselves after the Pulse massacre, spontaneously went there to leave flowers and other tributes. By the next day the lawn was an official collection point for Pulse tributes, and that second night after Pulse it hosted the city’s first major vigil. Thousands attended and the grass was watered with tears.
Now Florida Hospital has turned to the Senneff Arts Plaza lawn for the new kick-off location of its popular “Pink Out Month.” Plastic pink flamingos are purchased in memory of breast cancer victims or in support of breast cancer survivors, and the proceeds go to provide free screenings for breast cancer. In the first five years, 10,000 such flamingos were purchased and placed in flocks, primarily in Winter Park and College Park.
Just a few days earlier, the lawn was covered with flags. A few weeks earlier it was Pulse memorials. In the future the lawn will be home to other tributes.
The notion of the Dr. Phillips Center as a place of tribute for solidarity actually emerged seven months before Pulse. The night of the Paris attacks last November, the center was lit with the blue, white and red of the French flag and the image went viral almost immediately.