Like Tibetan sand mandalas, which are swept up and scattered on the water, the Temple of Time is about the moment, the process, the creation, and the transitory nature of life itself.
The beech-plywood temple on Sample Road, created by artist David Best, is the first of five public art installations in Coral Springs and Parkland that are part of the series Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art.
The two cities, in partnership with the Coral Springs Museum of Art, were awarded $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies to fund the projects, which aim to use art to help heal the community after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.
With help from local residents, the Balinese-like temple rose from the site of the old City Hall over a two-week span in early February, and opened to the public one year after the Feb. 14 school shooting that left 17 dead and as many injured.
What Best, his crew and community members created was an object of great beauty out of shared loss.
The temple, where visitors are encouraged to leave mementoes and write messages directly on the raw wood, has transformed into a repository of the community’s hopes, fears, wishes, and dreams.
The Temple of Time, said Best, is a way of honoring the time it will take for the community to process the feelings it shares from a common tragedy.
The California-based artist has dedicated his life’s work to designing and building ornate yet ephemeral temples for communities that need healing.
In what some might say is a paradox, the 35-foot-high, non-denominational structure will be set on fire and destroyed in May. It is Best’s hope the community’s grief over the shootings and the loss of life on 2/14 and in the aftermath will dissipate with the flames.
Best began creating temples in 2000, as a way to honor a friend killed in a motorcycle accident, and he and his 14-person Temple Crew have become known for the elaborate structures they’ve built at the annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
Best recently spoke about his work to the Miami New Times: “I make an empty structure — it doesn’t mean anything; it’s just a pretty shape. And then people come, and they put in their religion, their faith, their anger. Whatever they’ve got, they put it [in the temple], and they develop their mythology. It doesn’t matter what we believe. It matters what they believe.”
The Temple of Time in Coral Springs is very nearly covered with the inspirational and heartfelt messages visitors have left on the carved mosaic-like scrollwork. “Tell the sun and stars hello for me. We love you, Gina Rose,” reads one of thousands of personal notes. Another states: “Hate, anger, fear, indifference, and jealousy will never win.”
Hand-painted rocks emblazoned with “MSDStrong,” “A Little Bit of Gratitude Goes a Long Way,” and “There is Always Hope,” adorn the temple altars along with stuffed animals, photos, religious trinkets, hand-drawn hearts, flowers, and a brown manila envelope full of shredded bully testimonials from students at Pioneer Middle School.
Particularly poignant is a photograph from 18-year-old Meadow Pollack’s kindergarten teacher saying, “Proud to have been your kindergarten teacher, Meadow.” A senior at Douglas, Pollack was among the 17 killed by a lone gunman at school that day.
On a cool weekday morning in March — the installation is open every day from 7am until dusk — the temple was alive with visitors. Jonathan Koota, a massage therapist and Coral Springs resident, came with friends Lynne Mass, of Delray Beach, and Judy King, of Pompano Beach. They walked quietly through the temple, discreetly taking photos and reading the temple’s messages of love and hope to their grandkids. Lanie Hyman Shapiro visited the temple in February. The Coral Springs woman called the temple “an amazingly powerful and intricate” tribute to MSD’s 17 victims. “It’s a place to come together, to reflect,” Shapiro said. “It’s a place to begin a catharsis.”