Any Lakelander will recognize the ~60 iconic swan statues found around town — but do you know where they came from? While our real local swans arrived 100 years ago, their fiberglass counterparts flocked to Swan City back in 2002.
The statues first landed in Lakeland during Swansation, a public arts project held to raise funds for Explorations V Children’s Museum — now known as Florida Children’s Museum. The statues were displayed downtown before being auctioned off and relocated around town in 2003. Businesses originally paid $3,000-$20,000 for the swans, then had artists and students decorate each one in a unique style.
Local artist Rick Olivo created a mold for the fiberglass swans, and this wasn’t his only impact on Lakeland. He was also involved with the current-day Lakeland Community Theatre, taught at Rochelle School of the Arts, and created the Florida Children’s Museum’s Dragon of Toys. You may also have heard of his daughter, Karen Olivo, who starred in “Hamilton.”
The birds bear a variety of styles, from bold designs to intricately painted scenes. Some designs have stayed the same over the past 20+ years and others have changed with the times. Lakeland High School students even had a hand in refurbishing two of the statues in 2019.
Today, you can find the swans all over Lakeland. While most stuck around downtown, a few of the feathered friends found new nests in Dixieland, near Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, around Lake Morton, at Common Ground Playground, or even in residential backyards.
Look out for these swansational statues and add them to our community map. Snap a photo and upload it with the statue’s location so others can find them as well. We’ve started you off with the five statues found in this article. Good luck, Swan City.