The bayfront is sleeping.
Every other November, it awakens with the strong visual presence of up to 21 sculptures from national and international monumental visual artists that adorn the stretch along U.S. 41. Come May, the sculptures are taken down and the outdoor installation space goes back into hibernation.
But the eight board members of Sarasota Season of Sculpture, the nonprofit group responsible for curating the free bi-annual exhibit, never take a rest. There are plenty of fundraising and educational artist visits to plan during the interim.
Susan McLeod, board chairwoman, would love it if the exhibit could be annual, but the funding isn’t there — yet. She suggests it’s not easy trying to fundraise for an organization that people don’t know exists.
She blames the lack of awareness on the off year, when the lack of physical reminders, or sculptures, leaves the organization off the radar. This year is an off year.
Albeit, the group has had some press since the start of the off-season. For one, a woman crashed her Mercedes Benz into the base of the 25-foot-tall “Unconditional Surrender” in April. The sculpture arrived November 2005 to the bayfront during season three of Sarasota Season of Sculpture.
Another headline came when the Sarasota Public Art Fund garnered more than $500,000 to purchase the red 70-foot sculpture on the corner of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue, “Complexus,” by artist John Henry.
McLeod says even with the headlines, many people don’t realize Sarasota Season of Sculpture was responsible for the two permanent fixtures, in coordination with The Sarasota Public Art Fund. Sarasota Season of Sculpture board member Tom Savage headed the fund, which exists via The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and spearheaded the drive to purchase the sculptures. In turn, Season of Sculpture received a commission on each sculpture, which helps fund the group’s efforts. This covers the upward of $150,000 it costs per every season the sculptures are installed.
Sarasota Season of Sculpture has been responsible for donating and giving $1.2 million worth of art to the city of Sarasota in the past four years.
And plenty of sculptures have found a permanent home around the city, thanks to Sarasota Season of Sculpture, such as: “The Wave” by Malcolm Robertson at the Longboat Key Club and “Enigma” by Dennis Kowal on the bayfront.
“There’s a large group of people in Sarasota who enjoys the sculptures and think the city puts them there,” says McLeod. “They don’t know it’s (really) a nonprofit group that needs support.”
The volunteer group is busy planning the seventh season that opens in November. This year, instead of exhibiting 10 or more different artists, like it did in the sixth season, the installation will feature three international artists exhibiting several pieces each.
The group also strives to host artist visits in the interim to keep attention focused on visual arts and Season of Sculpture.
The group brought back artist Chakia Booker, known for her rubber-work sculpture featured in season six, March 13 through March 15 to talk with students and children from local groups such as the Boys and Girls Club, to bring the focus back to visual arts.
And there’s more news for this off-season. In April, local publishing group Serbin will release a 186-page photographic retrospective of the 13 years and seven seasons of Sarasota Season of Sculpture.
“We needed to have something in our hands to help people understand what it is we’ve done, what we continue doing, and that we need support,” McLeod says.
It’s a project the group has planned for two years. To date, there aren’t official plans for where the book can be purchased, but McLeod is sure there will be a release party.
For 13 years, the group has brought what McLeod believes is the strongest representation of visual art to the area. She’s been a part of it for 10 of those years.
“If you were walking or driving down the bayfront and saw those monumental sculptures there, you wouldn’t have a question about who we are as a community,” she says. “We are an important representation of the artistic passion of the community.”
BY THE NUMBERS
13 — Number of years Season of Sculpture has been in existence
132 — Number of sculptures brought to Sarasota since the inception of Season of Sculpture
96 — Number of artists represented since the first year of Season of Sculpture
15 — Number of U.S. states represented by Season of Sculpture over the past 13 years
13 — Number of foreign countries represented by Season of Sculpture over the past 13 years.
IF YOU GO
Reception and Lecture by Chakaia Booker
When: 5:30 p.m. reception and 6:30 p.m. lecture Friday, March 15
Where: Auditorium of Academic Center at Ringling College of Art and Design, 2700 N. Tamiami Trail
Info: RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
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