By Ingrid Schnader
“There is little that separates the culinary arts from the fine arts. One provides a feast for the stomach; the other a feast for the eyes,” Graham Boettcher, the R. Hugh Daniel director at the Birmingham Museum of Art, said in welcoming the crowd at the unveiling of a new sculpture on the Birmingham Rotary Trail.
The sculpture, called Frank’s Table, honors local chef and James Beard award winner Frank Stitt and the contributions he has made to Birmingham’s culinary scene.
Each year since 1997, the Alabama-Mississippi chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society chooses a leader in Birmingham to honor, and Stitt was this year’s choice. The MS Society then commissions a piece of artwork to commemorate the honoree while raising money for MS research and support.
“Leadership includes developing others, mentoring others and providing them with the tools they need to succeed,” said Jay Grinney, the 2018 campaign chairman for the sculpture. “We think about all the other fine chefs and restaurants here in Birmingham that have made this such a fabulous destination for so many people, and without Frank, that would not be the case.”
The sculpture is a table that serves as a base for a stainless-steel bee wing. It is surrounded by chairs so that the community can sit at Frank’s Table.
“I learned that the honeybee, in order to fly, its big wing and small wing have to act together,” artist Greg Fitzpatrick said. “So, the connectedness and togetherness that Frank wanted to express was perfectly expressed in the action of a honeybee.”
“So that was the metaphor for the whole work,” he continued, “two things coming together to be one thing. And you can see that metaphor way down the line in Frank and Pardis (Stitt’s wife) and everything that they do.”
Stitt said Fitzpatrick’s work went beyond anything he could have hoped for.
“The last couple of sunsets, we’ve been at the table with a little wine, some olives and focaccia,” Stitt said. “It’s truly a magical place here in Birmingham. Part of downtown, part of this community.
“Pardis is the biggest part of my life and our restaurants. I think that the energy and the magic that is created is because of our love for what we are doing and our desire to want to share with you. So let’s open this table up — we want you all to sit down on it.”
To get to the sculpture, enter the Rotary Trail from the 24th Street entrance. Other sculptures from this campaign can be found throughout Birmingham, including at Regions Harbert Plaza, the Alabama Power Building, the McWane Center, the Daniel Building, the Financial Center, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Birmingham Zoo.