The symbolism of the sculpture incorporated into Patriot Plaza at the Sarasota National Cemetery has its roots in artwork extending back thousands of years, as a gallery walk at the Ringling Museum of Art Thursday evening demonstrated.

Overall, Kirkland says, “I hope the plaza inspires people to think about their families and their country, through the stories being told, the images they see—and that it encourages people visiting to think about their own experiences. In my experience as an artist, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Etched into each block are Russell’s words carefully chosen by Hirsch after months of research.
She constantly narrowed down her selections with the help of the Russell family, especially Bill’s daughter, Karen Kenyatta Russell. One quote even came from Hirsch’s meeting with him: “Never go out there and see what happens, go out there and make something happen.”
But before she started the final sculpture, Hirsch created a model of what the statue itself would look like, and she showed photographs to Russell. Hirsch said he was more interested in the grant to help children, but, she added, “My sense is that he approves of the pose.” He even showed her how he’d hold the ball, and she watched Russell and his daughter, Karen, toss the ball back and forth, focusing on his hands and how they moved to get a sense for the gesture.”