CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Standing behind the giant words “Peace & Love” on a massive billboard, a crowd of political leaders, business owners, artists, and everyday residents recited together: “I am MSD strong. And so are we.”
Award-winning photojournalist Carl Juste led the chant Friday at the official unveiling of the art installation outside Panthers IceDen on Sample Road and Sportsplex Drive, which was timed with the second anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy.
“Peace and love is such an easy concept. It’s easy but it’s so hard to obtain. Peace and love are the remedies to hate and separation. Peace and love are birth parents of reliance and hope,” Juste told hundreds of people in the audience.
He was among the artists behind the five “Power of Art” large-scale, temporary public art installations in Coral Springs and Parkland -- which included the billboard. The projects were made possible by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to bring communities together following the 2018 Valentine Day’s shooting.
Juste’s project, unveiled Friday as well, showed through photos, essays, and audio tracks how people are recovering from the horror of the school shooting. That project, called “The Big Picture: Resilience,” is displayed at Pine Trials Park in Parkland.
At the billboard, standing on grass on an unseasonably hot afternoon, elected officials searched for the right words to describe their communities’ feelings on the anniversary.
“Today is not an easy day for anybody,” Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook said. “I’m so grateful we are all together. In the darkest of times, we need to rely on one another and not be alone.
What the ‘Power of Art’ did for Coral Springs and Parkland is just that. It has brought us together.”
Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky said people in both cities are still struggling with trauma, pain, and division that just won’t go away.
“These art projects have given all of us the opportunity to come together and find some meaning that we’ve been looking for in this process,” she said. “I think it’s so really important that we talk openly and we talk with each other and we stand up and for each other in moments like this.”
Taking it all in was Coral Springs resident Doris Clarke. She came to listen and heal. She had no loved ones or friends in the school, and yet she hurt like so many others. She too chanted Juste’s words.
“It was important to be a part and know there’s so many people in the community who have been affected by all of this,” she said.