BRADENTON -- Installation was under way Thursday of the Embracing Our Differences artwork that will be officially unveiled this evening on the Bradenton Riverwalk.
Crews were installing 30 billboards Thursday featuring artwork from around the world -- including that of 11 Manatee school district children -- that will be on display until April 29 as part of the annual art exhibit, which after nine years in Sarasota is making its debut in Bradenton.
"When I see it this size it's like seeing it for the first time again," said Michael Shelton, executive director of Embracing Our Differences.
The billboards are set up in clusters in three locations along the Riverwalk, the east end near the regatta plaza, the west end on the great lawn and the center near the Riverwalk pavilion.
"These main pieces are the centerpieces for the education program," Shelton said.
The work displayed near the pavilion was carefully selected since it is where school children will be brought as part of the educational programs that Embracing Our Differences provides.
The crews will work to complete the installation before its official unveiling at 5 p.m.
"The whole thing is a challenge," Shelton said, "just trying to make sure we don't cut anything."
The crew had to work carefully since lines supplying electricity and phone service to Palmetto were directly beneath where they were working.
The 30 pieces displayed were chosen from the more than 4,000 pieces that were submitted from 52 countries and 41 states. An art selection committee sat for two weeks sifting through the submissions.
After April 29, the art exhibit will be packed up and taken to North Port, where it will be on display from May 1 to June 2 at North Port High School. An identical exhibit
will be on display in Sarasota from Friday to June 2.
"Next year I hope to be able to keep the exhibit in Bradenton for two months," Shelton said.
When the exhibit is over in Sarasota and North Port, the banners will be donated to schools that want them to display. Oftentimes the school the child is from gets first choice, but since there are duplicates there will be more to go around.
"Typically the kids that get selected are not the captain of the football team or head cheerleader," Shelton said. "They become a rock star within their school."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.