A work of art went up in flames in Coral Springs, Florida, over the weekend—but the blaze was intentional. David Best, an artist known for making temples to honor the dead at Burning Man, set fire to his sculpture, titled Temple of Times, to pay tribute to the 17 people killed in the 2018 shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Best erected the 35-foot-tall ornately carved, non-sectarian plywood structure over the course of two weeks in February with with local residents affected by the shooting, turning the process into a kind of communal art therapy.
“There’s no way in hell we’re going to heal a murdered child,” Best told the Miami New Times. He says he named the work Temple of Time because only time would heal such grief.
Family members of three of the victims, including star swimmer Nicholas Dworet, school athletic director Chris Hixon, and marching band member Gina Montalto, lit the sculpture on fire yesterday to commence the ceremonial burn.
The project was organized by the Coral Springs Museum of Art using a $1 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Public Art Challenge. Temple of Time is one of five large-scale art installations coming to Parkland and Coral Springs over the next two years as part of the museum’s art therapy program.
Best’s sculpture was first unveiled on February 14, the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, which has given rise to a new generation of gun-control activists led by student survivors of the Parkland shooting.
Best was inspired to build his first memorial sculpture in 2000, when his mentee, Michael Hefflin, died in a motorcycle accident shortly before a planned trip to Burning Man. Best turned the piece he had been working on into a tribute to Hefflin. During the week in the desert, other attendees wrote the names of their deceased loved ones on the structure, creating a communal memorial that was set alight at the end of the event. The temple and its incineration has since become a Burning Man tradition.
“It’s good to be out and come together in the community to really share in our pain and our rage to channel [it] into something constructive,” onlooker Andrea Venkatesan told CNN of the ceremonial blaze.
See more photos of Temple of Time below.
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