Plans to float a giant alligator through downtown Fort Lauderdale and down the Intracoastal Waterway were delayed Sunday.
Hollywood artist Lloyd Goradesky and Everglades historian Cesar Becerra, joined by a team of collaborators, now plan to launch an art piece they are describing as “the world’s largest alligator head” on Monday.
Construction delays forced the change in plan, Goradesky said.
The 40-ton behemoth, titled “Floating Tile Art: Gator in the Bay,” is made up entirely of reclaimed parts, including items found in junkyards. Its menacing teeth are made from roofing material.
A self-propelled barge built into the head will steer it, while a crane boom inside will open and close the gator’s mouth to about three stories high.
At night, the gator’s eyes light up in orange, while the head changes colors throughout the evening.
“It’s safe to say something like this has never been done before,” Goradesky said.
The barge art will work its way south to its final destination on Biscayne Bay, where it will float around the area throughout Art Basel. Creators hope the “gator” will represent the Everglades during the international art event that opens to the public Thursday.
The main goal of the project is to draw attention to the Everglades’ fragile ecosystem and restoration efforts, Becerra said.
“Sometimes you have to do something like this to get the attention of a region that often doesn’t think about what it has in its own backyard,” Becerra said. The gator project is currently in its first phase, meaning only the head and neck have been completed.
Later this year, the team will add the rest of the body, which consists primarily of 102 4-foot-by-8-foot tiles. The tiles will feature approximately 6,500 wildlife photographs Goradesky shot from inside the Everglades.
When it is finally put together, the gator will be 230 feet long and 50 feet wide, Goradesky said. The project has cost the team approximately $200,000 so far, funded primarily through donor contributions, in-kind donations and the group’s own pockets.
The gator will return to Biscayne Bay in May to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Christo’s “Surrounded Islands” installation.
“The idea is to educate people and the best time to teach is when they least expect it,” Goradesky said. “They come to look at a beautiful piece of art and wake themselves up to something so unique in South Florida that is the Everglades.”
Creating the project has taken the team nearly a year, from drawing up plans to assembling the animal piece by piece at a site adjacent to the Everglades.
To transport the animal from the Everglades to its launching point in Fort Lauderdale, creators had to cut the head into three pieces. The crew has spent much of this week welding it back together.
On Friday, Jim Martin watched in disbelief as workers put the head together. Martin is the guy who will be steering the barge.
“I have no idea how we are going to do this, or how it’s going to get to Miami, but we’re going to do this,” he said. “I have many years on a barge, but never inside an alligator head.”