Public Art Committee board member Trulee Jameson is upset that her board has no control over a concept being shaped for a $55,000 interactive public-art project the committee approved in August.
At its Nov. 9 quarterly meeting, Jameson made it known that although the board already approved a project for nine bronze sculptures to be placed along Main Street, she wants the committee to also have approval of the concept that goes along with the sculptures.
The art project, which would be owned by the city, could mimic a popular art project concept in downtown Greenville, S.C., called “Mice on Main,” which allows adults and children to walk the streets of downtown and find sculptures of mice in unique places.
Public-art coordinator Virginia Hoffman and senior planner Dr. Clifford Smith said this project, which is expected to take a year to formulate and complete, will have a Sarasota theme to it.
But that information, Jameson said, is not enough.
“As a committee, I think we should have approval or disapproval of the concepts being planned for the nine sculptures,” Jameson said. “We could be told the concept is anything. It could be nine sculptures of sailors kissing nurses. We should be approving this concept.”
Committee member George Haborak agreed.
“If we are moving ahead with a $55,000 project and whatever the steering committee comes up with we have to live with, I have a problem with that,” Haborak said. “We are giving them money, and we don’t even know what the concept is.”
Smith and Hoffman, however, disagreed.
Smith said that the project is further being developed by a steering committee that includes local business and organizations to come up with a Sarasota theme. Local art students are also being asked to offer suggestions and concepts for the project.
“Your purview was with the sculptures,” Smith said. “Your purview is not the story, illustrations or characters.”
Hoffman agreed, but told the committee it will still have a chance to review the concept once it’s finished.
“Rather than being too concerned about worrying if you are a part of this, you are a part of this because by the time we get to a call of artists, most of this will be worked out and there may be more for you to review,” said Hoffman, who said the sculptures are a small part of the project.
Jameson, however, said that’s exactly where her concern lies.
“My concern is we are stuck no matter what fabulous concept and multiple layer is presented for this project,” Jameson said. “We are stuck with static bronze sculptures hidden somewhere on Main Street.”
The back-and-forth discussion continued for almost a half-hour and but was not resolved.
Hoffman, however, promised to keep the board apprised of the project.
“I am sure every partner wants the board’s input on the creative side of this,” Hoffman said.
After the meeting, Hoffman said that there’s still an opportunity for the committee to provide public input on the project.
“They can make a recommendation once this project is presented,” Hoffman said. “It will be presented to them.”
The discussion highlighted a growing concern among board members that their committee’s role is being diminished.
Earlier in the meeting, Haborak requested a future meeting with Sarasota city commissioners to discuss the city’s public art policy and the role of the committee moving forward. The art committee will also hold a public workshop in December to vet its issues and the board’s role moving forward.