Sunday, September 20, 2009

I had no idea: The story of Tampa's Cancer Survivors Park

This is a perfect example of a well-known art installation in Tampa that just about everyone knows of but few know much about. I discovered that there is much more than an awesome sculpture of men, women and kids, of every age, finding their way through a bronze maze. Here's the story: In 1978, Richard Bloch, co-founder and honorary chairman of the board of H & R Block, Inc. was diagnosed with “terminal” lung cancer. But it was not the end, and with the help of his wife Annette, he won his battle against cancer. Bloch and his wife then pledged to do all they could to help others with cancer. They would work to beat cancer, bring hope to those in treatment and to celebrate their recovery. The goal of the R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation (click HERE for more information) is “limited to projects that will help people diagnosed with cancer have the best chance of beating it as easily as possible.” All services of the Foundation are free, and no contributions of cash are ever solicited.

I had no idea who was responsible for Tampa’s Cancer Survivors Park. The Foundation provided all the construction funds including perpetual maintenance. The Bloch's plan is to build a one in every city with over one million people in the metroplitan area throughout the U.S. and Canada. Each park is individually designed to complement the surrounding area. Tampa’s is pretty hard to miss. It is at one of the city’s busiest traffic intersections – across from the Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, AND the George M. Steinbrenner Field, home to the New York Yankees Spring Training. It is located on the southwest corner of Al Lopez Park at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. As the Blochs state, they wanted to do something for the living and this park is amazing in its design and beauty. The sculpture is very visible from the street but the rest you need to explore and enjoy. Bloch states: “Three fundamental elements were perceived. First is a sculpture as a focal point. Created by the renowned Mexican sculptor, Victor Salmones, it is eight life-size figures passing through a maze depicting cancer treatments and success. It is placed in the most visible point in the park for passers-by because it needs no explanation. People can walk among the figures, touch them, walk through the maze and generally visualize themselves being helped. It is moving. The second element in the park is a “Positive Mental Attitude Walk”. This is an area that a person can stroll through, meditate and read some 14 plaques; 4 are inspirational and 10 are specific suggestions on fighting cancer. The third element is The Road to Recovery. This consists of 7 bronze plaques with common sense advice to use during treatment. Other than these three components, each park is totally unique, being designed to complement the local environment. It wants to make a magnificent showing to the passer-by.”

The sculptor Victor Salmones was born in Mexico City in 1937. He attended the Universidad de las Americas, and put himself through the Instituto de Bellas Artes (Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts). In 1967, Salmones' fluid bronze "Adam" was awarded first prize at the Biennale Exposition of the National Museum of Modern Art. His work continued to win great critical acclaim at subsequent Biennale expositions, and in 1971, his life-size bronze "Narcissus" was honored with first place in the national art competition.

Victor Salmones rapidly gained international attention and was honored with one-man shows throughout the world. His work is in public and private collections in roughly thirty-eight countries.Victor Salmones continued sculpting until his death in 1989. He worked principally in bronze, using the centuries-old lost wax method of casting. Salmones claimed that this sculpture, "Cancer...There's Hope," was his finest, a “labor of love.


  1. That is a sculpture that I can truly appreciate for it means more than a tribute to the artist's ego.

    Very interesting, as usual. I thought, though, that at least one of the figure would be eating a hamburger or an Alaskan taco! ;-)

  2. @ Jacob - The sweet elderly couple in the back surely have the most delicious fresh fried shrimp. It's THEIR dream after recovery. You need HOPE! (And expanding pants.)

  3. I hope many are helped and inspired by this work.

  4. Très belle sculpture pour une juste cause .