Lake Wales Art Center Exhibit Honors “Sticky” Steve
by James Coulter
An elderly gentleman sits in a rocking chair and raises his bow to play his fiddle. Silently, he sits in front of his porch swing, a guitar sitting atop it, as he prepares his countryside solo.
The man never does have the chance to play his fiddle. He’s only a statue in an art gallery. He’s one of the many art pieces created to honor the unique life of a very unique local individual, “Sticky” Steve Morrison.
More than 64 art pieces showcased in the Lake Wales Art Center honor the life and legacy of local conservationist and philanthropist “Sticky” Steve. From oil paintings to life-sized sculptures, several dozen pieces have been collected by nearly 50 local artists who have been touched and inspired by him in the current exhibit: “Sticky Steve: A Home-Brewed Life.”
“We are excited to host this gallery show which, while focused on just one person, is really an exhibit about us all,” explains the website for the Lake Wales Art Council. “This exhibition presents patterns of kindness, generosity, and understanding; it is a celebration of the power a single life can have on a community.”
His family moved to Central Florida in the 1950s. His father, having previously worked for the National Audubon Society in New York City, served as the second director for Bok Tower Gardens, according to Haven Magazine.
Sticky himself moved to Lake Wales upon graduating Florida State University in 1972 with a fine arts degree. There he worked as a conservationist after the Nature Conservancy “purchased the land adjacent to his and needed someone to manage the property,” Haven Magazine wrote.
“At the time, the Lake Wales Ridge was being discovered as an important area for biodiversity,” the magazine wrote. “Scientists swarmed the Ridge to observe and monitor the ecosystem, and Morrison had the opportunity to show them the preserve.”
For 30 years, Sticky served as a land manager, helping to restore the natural habitat of more than 5,000 acres in the Tiger Creek Reserve. Both living in Central Florida and working to preserve its natural beauty has allowed him to become one with nature. He even works as a beekeeper as a hobby, which earned him the name “Sticky.”
He also have a love for music, including the fiddle, guitar, and bass. As with his love of nature, his father helped inspire his musical tastes. His father served as an amateur singer in vaudeville, with a special affinity for crooning ballads of the turn of the last century, Sticky said.
Having lived such an interesting life has inspired many locals. The art exhibit at the Lake Wales Art Center serves as a tribute to his inspiring legacy, with 64 art pieces of varying styles created by local artists.
“I guess I have charted a little bit of a different path than most people. I kind of walked my own walk. I had an interesting life,” Sticky said.
“It has been a great experience for me and an honor,” he said of the gallery. “It is affirming of the path I have taken in life, and it has been really rewarding to see the outpouring of love in the community in the form of art.”
Amanda McCallister, Director of the Board, appreciates how the gallery, curated by Paul O’Neill, Jr., manages to encompass the life of such a unique local individual. Also included in the exhibit is a ten-minute documentary projected onto a screen.
“I think Sticky is a pillar of our community and a pillar of value and kindness and compassion and friendship,” McCallister said. “I think that exhibit is about that kind of community spirit that we have here, and I think an event like this is kind of a testament to this. That is the spirit that Sticky shares, to contribute to your community and taking care of each other.”
“Sticky Steve: A Home-Brewed Life” is on display until Nov. 6 at the Lake Wales Art Center, located at 1099 SR 60 E, Lake Wales, FL 33853. For more information, visit their website at: http://www.lakewalesartscouncil.org/blogs/2020/9/11/stickysteve