By: Sherri Lonon, Bradenton Patch
TAMPA, FL — An unusual sight along North Nebraska Avenue is making folks who pass by question their eyes. After all, a two-headed alligator isn’t exactly something people see every day.
Seminole Heights Patch reader Charlie Williams reached out after spotting the unique statue outside of Southern Brewing & Winemaking.
“A huge 6-foot, two-headed alligator statue just popped up in Seminole Heights,” Williams wrote.
Williams sent in some shots of the colorful critter in response to our call for photos taken in and around town.
“How can you not stop when you see a giant two-headed alligator statute,” Williams explained. “It’s gotta be one of the strangest roadside attractions I’ve ever seen.”
After taking some shots, Williams went inside to find out more about the statue. The bartender pointed him to a fable hanging on the wall, “Bite of Smite.” The old story, a cautionary tale, dates to the 1920s and involves a rabbit, a turtle and a two-headed alligator along the Hillsborough River.
Suspecting there was more to the story, Patch reached out to Southern Brewing. The folks there connected us with artist Justin Arnold, who confirmed the old folktale was the inspiration for his piece.
“It deals with two common characters in Florida folklore, the trickster rabbit and the alligator,” Arnold said. “The exception with this alligator is that it has a second head. Like many folktales, there’s a lesson to be learned from it, but the unusual imagery of a two-headed alligator is what attracted me.”
Wanting to bring that two-headed alligator to life, so to say, Arnold set out about three weeks ago to install the steel inner structure outside the Seminole Heights business. The rest was sculpted with concrete right on the site. It was finished only a few days ago.
To create the welded steel rebar that serves as the piece’s inner structure, Justin worked with his father, Alan Arnold. The elder Arnold once worked on the Ferrari Formula One racing crew building race car bodies, so he knows his way around working with steel, his son explained.
The whole process, including filling it with solid concrete and carving out the final details took about 60 hours, Justin said.
“My friends Eric and Andy helped with the concrete and my father, sister, her husband and my friends Erin and Roxanne helped tile and grout,” he said.
The whole project came about through Urban Art Attack, a community arts program. It seems Justin has some paintings in places like Ella’s Folk Art Café and was approached about doing something bigger. The statue was recommended and the rest is history, so to say.
As for Southern Brewing, it was their idea to put the statute right out front. That move, Williams can attest to, has turned out to be a hit with passersby.
Justin seems pleased with the buzz his work is creating.
“I guess you don’t see too many giant, colorful, concrete two-headed alligators in a friendly, anthropomorphic pose on the side of the road,” he said.
Justin also noted the process of creating the statue also stirred up a lot of enthusiasm and encounters with area residents who stopped by to ask questions and take pictures.
“There was one older man who was a poet in an Ybor art collective in the 60s who would stop by every night to talk,” Justin recalled. “Another guy told me he was going to build a two-headed alligator statue in another part of the neighborhood, but was going to scratch his plans since I did one first. I told him that was absurd! I don’t think there could be too many two-headed alligator statues. I feel like the two-headed alligator is something that belongs to all of us.”
To see the two-headed gator in person, visit Southern Brewing & Winemaking at 4500 N. Nebraska Ave. To find out more about Urban Art Attack, visit it online.