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Geoffrey Smith Lets His Art Do The Talking

Stuart artist and sculptor Geoffrey Smith is making headlines the world-over for his lotus sculpture “Rising Above”, which President Trump recently gave to Pope Francis at their meeting on May 24.

Smith hasn’t given any media interviews on his role in this history-making moment, but fellow artists, colleagues and community leaders in his hometown are happy to weigh in on his public artwork, conservation ethos and family devotion. 

"Being part of that monumental legacy of having your work in the Vatican collection, it supersedes the president," says Nancy Turrell, executive director of The Arts Council of Martin County. "It's just incredible to cover the ages, for thousands of years, to be part of those paying homage to the pope. The sky's the limit for him."

Public Art Starts at Home

Smith’s artwork adorns his hometown, proliferating recently through a unique public-private partnership. With its centennial celebration set for the following year, several local leaders and art lovers in the City of Stuart sought out Smith in 2013 for a special undertaking. They wanted public artwork that would commemorate the community’s commitment to the environment and endure for the next 100 years. 

Smith was the perfect choice, remembers Jeff Krauskopf, Stuart city commissioner, to sculpt a collection of Florida water birds that would beautify a newly revitalized roadway leading into downtown Stuart, as well as key sections of the city. 

“If you’ve been through his gallery, you get it,” says Krauskopf, who with his wife, Pam Roebuck, made the initial private donation for $5,000. “He just has an appreciation for the environment. We’re proud of him and proud of the work he’s done.”

Six of Smith’s water birds dot the downtown area, complementing one of his best-known works, the 19-foot-tall Stuart Sailfish Monument Fountain.

“The international exposure is certainly going to increase our exposure,” says Stuart mayor Troy McDonald. “We’ve always known that Geoffrey’s work is extraordinary. But in my mind, it’s even more extraordinary that many of the sculptures around our city were created by an artist whose work now sits in the Vatican. And it got there through the president, no less.”

Reflecting Local Values

With both a studio and gallery in Stuart, Smith frequently photographs wildlife during expeditions into the Florida Everglades, the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River. His conservation commitment shines through in his work, says Jane Davis Doggett, a leading figure in the environmental graphic design movement and member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

“We’re very fortunate to have a sculptor whose subjects are very appealing to our corner of the world, where we are in the natural world,” says Doggett. “This is the place where we really love the kind of work that inspires Geoffrey. I think he studies his subjects very well. I think it’s good that we have a ‘sculptor Audubon’ in our area.”

Highly Respected, Highly Regarded

Stuart arts patron Mary Ann Houghland has collected Smith’s work for more than 20 years. 

“I’ve always tried to support local artists and was particularly blessed when I met Geoffrey and his art became a part of my collection,” says Houghland. “I am absolutely delighted that people outside the state of Florida are getting an appreciation for the talents of a wonderful artist, gentleman, husband and father.” 

When not outdoors, Smith prefers time with family, says longtime friend and celebrated wildlife artist Guy Coheleach. 

“He’s just a delightful person to spend time with,” says Coheleach, who lives in Stuart. “He’s got a great family. When you go over there for dinner, the kids are having dinner with you. My wife and I absolutely love it."

“I’m a frustrated sculptor and he’s helping me learn about it and I’m teaching him about painting—and I’m getting the better of it,” adds Coheleach. “He’s a typical artist in that he has his own goal. He’s one of the nicest guys, and to have that youth, that energy and vigor... How the hell can you get better recognition than the president of the United States giving your piece to the pope—unless you give it to God?”

Photos courtesy of Geoffrey C. Smith Galleries