Downtown Improvement District (DID) board member Mark Kaufmann questions why the Public Art Committee would dole out $25,000 for a public art project that would be located inside the Palm Avenue parking garage.
“I strongly object to murals planned for the interior walls of the parking garage,” said Kaufmann at an Aug. 23 DID meeting at City Hall. “Public art funds should be used for public art that’s located on the outside of a building for the public to see.”
Kaufmann said he would rather see a $25,000 sculpture built in front of the parking garage.
“Taking public art money and putting it inside a garage doesn’t meet the criteria for public art,” Kaufmann said.
Chris Gallagher, senior planner for Sarasota-based Jonathan Parks Architect, told DID board members that city code doesn’t require public art to be located on the outside of public-owned buildings.
“If it were a private building, people would have to see the public art from the outside,” Gallagher said. “But public buildings allow for people to view public art from other locations than just from the sidewalk.”
City planner Steve Stancel confirmed Gallagher’s assessment.
“The garage is accessible to the public,” Stancel said. “That means a public art project could be located inside of it.”
Kaufmann had other concerns about the mural project: graffiti and emissions from cars damaging the murals.
Gallagher, however, told the Sarasota Observer that part of the $25,000 his firm, which built the parking garage, requested from the Public Art Committee last month would go toward the price of placing a clear protectant coating over the murals.
“The coating would act as a Teflon base that would allow a power washer to remove any graffiti without harming the mural underneath it,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher also believes that the murals would act as a deterrent to graffiti artists.
“What tends to happen is if you are a graffiti artist, you are looking for a blank canvas and not one that’s already been done,” Gallagher said. “At the end of the day, though, wherever you have public art located, it’s open to people doing damage to it.”
The clear coating would also act as a deterrent to any smog and car emissions.
“It’s not uncommon to put murals in a parking garage,” said Gallagher, who noted the public art program allows for murals. “Because the garage, we believe, acts as a flowing sculpture itself, the mural project would be a perfect complement.”
The Public Art Committee, however, must approve the project at a special meeting Sept. 27 before any funds can be distributed to five artists for the mural work.
The city already set aside money for art in the parking garage. The city’s zoning code requires that every new downtown project set aside half of a percent of the construction cost toward artwork, which means $54,000 was set aside from the garage cost for future artwork purposes.
The garage re-opens Nov. 1. Gallagher hopes the five artists who are selected could begin work on the mural project before the structure re-opens.
Garage mural proposal
The concept for a Palm Avenue parking garage includes painting sweeping, colorful murals, with a different theme planned for each floor.
Examples include a dance theme for the second floor, a film theme for the third floor, a music theme for the fourth floor, a theater theme for the fifth floor and an opera theme for the sixth floor.
The Sarasota Chalk Festival could also be incorporated into the project: The artists would save some mural space for artwork done by local children.
The total cost of the mural project is $25,000, with $5,000 being allocated to each of five artists.