New memorial installed at author's grave

By Jay Meisel

FORT PIERCE - Visitors to the grave of author Zora Neale Hurston will see a new memorial to her.

The memorial, consisting of two columns, about 8-feet tall and 3-1/2-feet wide, was completed earlier this month by

artist James Liccione.

Mr. Liccione, who is a St. Lucie County resident and conservator at the Vero Beach Museum of Art, said he worked on the project for about a year.

"I wanted something soulful, enchanting and inviting - a visual poetic memorial to this special life," he said. "I didn't

 want to do just a statue sculpture sitting there at the gravesite.

"I wanted to do something that would tell the story of her life," he said.

He created, a non-circular and non-flat sculpture made of terra cotta clay that is fired, he said.

That material is good at withstanding outside elements, he said.

The columns contain panels that depict facets of Ms. Hurston's life, he said.

"She loved to wear big, colorful hats, so I embellished it with hats, Mr. Liccione said.

Other panels feature roses - known to be one of Ms. Hurston's favorite flowers - books and depictions of quotes in her books, he said.

More than a year ago, he said, he was approached by Jody Bonet, former director of cultural affairs for St. Lucie County.

She was familiar with his work and they discussed creating the memorial, he said.

Although Ms. Bonet selected him to do the memorial, Mr. Liccione said, the project turned out to be more difficult than expected.

Ms. Bonet left St. Lucie County for another job and the project seemed to fall off the county's radar, he said.

It took weeks for him to get a contact signed for $12,000 to do the project, he said.

He credits Jon Ward, another former director of cultural affairs, with helping accomplish that.

Mr. Liccione said he ended up being paid less than $8 per hour.

"It wasn't a project where I went to the bank with a lot of money," he said, adding that he wanted to do the project for the community.

Mr. Liccione also gave artist Caryl Westergren a lot of credit for the project. She did a lot of research into the life of Ms. Hurston.

He also noted that at the time Ms. Bonet left he had completed seven panels, even without a contract. A friend offered to buy the panels and he considered selling

 them at the time when the project was tenuous.

"Caryl wouldn't hear of it," he said, adding that she convinced him not to sell the panels.

The memorial was installed not long after the 50th anniversary of Ms. Hurston's death on Jan. 28, 1960.

She had moved here several years before her death. During that time, she worked for a local newspaper and taught at Lincoln Park Academy.

Ms. Hurston had gained a national reputation as an author, particularly during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

It's Caryl and Lilac! Go to find out more about the colorist artist Caryl Westergren's beautiful art at the website

James Liccione

Zora Neale Hurston Memorial The Stately Beautiful Remembrance of a Special Life. Zora! Zora! Zora! For Zora Neale Hurston. Dedicated to Zora Neale Hurston. The Zora Neale Hurston Memorial is located on the walkway that leads to the Zora Neale Hurston grave.