Food lovers from around the country come to Birmingham to get a seat at one of James Beard Award-winning chef Frank Stitt’s four restaurants.
Now, everyone in the Birmingham community is invited to have a seat at “Frank’s Table,” a new public sculpture honoring Stitt that was unveiled this afternoon along The Rotary Trail downtown.
The towering sculpture, created by Aiken, S.C. artist Gregory Fitzpatrick, features interlocked stainless-steel honeybee wings as the centerpiece of a table that’s crafted from Alabama marble.
Six bee wing chairs — also made of stainless steel and Alabama marble — surround the table — issuing an invitation to those strolling along the Rotary Trail to stop and have a seat at the community table.
The “Frank’s Table” sculpture is at the 24th Street entrance to The Rotary Trail, which runs along First Avenue South.
Stitt said at today’s ribbon-cutting that he and his wife, Pardis, have already enjoyed a couple of quiet evenings at “Frank’s Table.”
“The last couple of sunsets, we’ve been at the table with a little wine and some olives and focaccia, and it’s truly a magical place here in Birmingham — part of downtown, part of this community,” Stitt said.
“The thought of being at table and that we are all welcome is something that’s very, very important,” Stitt added. “And I hope that we will all, at different times, be at table.”
The honeybee — which has two pairs of wings that must interlock in order to fly — is a metaphor for “two things coming together to be one thing,” Fitzpatrick said.
The table at the base of the sculpture is open to all who want to sit down together, Fitzpatrick added.
“Everyone can come, relax and be part of the sculpture,” he said. “(We) invite everybody to sit and reside there and relax and let your own mind stop and return to your own peace, love and joy. That’s what it’s all about.”
Stitt, a Cullman native, has changed the dining landscape in Birmingham and brought international acclaim to the city since he opened Highlands Bar and Grill in Five Points South in 1982. The restaurant won the James Beard Foundation Award as the most outstanding restaurant in America in 2018.
Some of Birmingham’s top chefs and restaurateurs have trained under Stitt at Highlands and at his and his wife’s other three restaurants — Bottega, Bottega Cafe and Chez Fonfon.
“As y’all know, what I do is about the team, and certainly Pardis is the biggest part of my life and our restaurants,” Stitt said today. “I do think the energy, the magic, that is created is because of our love for what we are doing and our desire to want to share it with you.”
The “Frank’s Table” sculpture is a donation to the city and people of Birmingham from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Alabama-Mississippi Chapter, which has been commissioning public art projects to honor community leaders since 1997, according to a media release.
The campaign efforts to commission the art projects also raise money to support MS research that is taking place at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, as well as programs that support people living with MS and their families, according to the release.
Stitt’s sculpture is the 19th in the series, Andrew Bell, president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Alabama-Mississippi Chapter, said at today’s unveiling. To date, the campaigns have raised more than $5 million, Bell said.
Previous honorees include John Harbert, Fred Sington, Joseph Bruno, Elton B. Stephens, Benjamin Russell, Tom Martin, Thomas Carruthers, the Beeson and Ireland families, Hall Thompson, Neal Berte, Don Logan, Lee Styslinger III, Charles Collat and Drayton Nabers.
The public works of art commemorating past honorees are on display throughout downtown Birmingham, including at Regions Harbert Plazza, the Alabama Power Building, the McWane Science Center, the Daniel Building, the Financial Center, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Birmingham Zoo and Regions Field.