An enormous bouquet has arrived on the West Esplanade neutral ground, near the entrance of East Jefferson General Hospital.
The colorful, 24-foot-tall bunch of stainless steel and aluminum flowers is meant to show gratitude to the hospital staff for tireless service during the COVID pandemic.
“The Bouquet” will be dedicated during a public ceremony on Thursday at 10 a.m.
Businessman and philanthropist Henry Shane purchased the towering sculpture at an undisclosed cost. Jefferson Parish provided the concrete platform to support the artwork.
“It was quite an ordeal they went through,” Shane said of the hospital caregivers and others. “I was hiding out in a house, but they were working in a hospital.”
Shane credited Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken for originally proposing a public gesture of thanks to the hospital workers. Shane, who has erected scores of sculptures across Jefferson Parish, handled the particulars.
Sometime during the pandemic, artist Luis Colemenares began building the big bouquet in hopes of moving the sculpture from medical institution to medical institution as a tribute to the labor and sacrifice of the caregivers.
“They were our heroes,” Colemenares said. “A lot of love went into it.”
The gigantic project was a group effort for Colemenares and his studio staff, who didn’t have much to do during the early part of the lockdown. Colemenares drew up the structure and everyone contributed designs for the 50 flowers that range from 1 to 4 feet in diameter.
But the big bouquet had to be put aside when Colemenares and his studio assistants found themselves busy building the barriers used in public places to ensure social distancing. For instance, Colemenares’ studio was employed to create the dividers that separated the Saints’ lockers in the Caesars Superdome.
Shane was aware of Colemenares’ unfinished bouquet and thought it would be appropriate for the EJGH site.
Colmenares said it took several months to complete the project, which — like all of the sculptures that Shane has commissioned — was engineered to withstand 130 mph winds.
Colmenares said the legs of the sculpture may seem thin, but they are actually quite sturdy, composed of several steel pipes telescoped into one another that run from the ground to the top of the structure. The flowers are attached with big steel bolts.
The strength of the structure can be seen to symbolize the devotion of the hospital staff.
Shane said he considers the piece to be “Luis' masterpiece.”
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