- July 27, 2018
On Monday, the city agreed to spend up to $70,000 in public art funds to place a sculpture on what is currently private property next to a development under construction.
The agreement represents a new strain of public-private partnership when it comes to public art. The city funds will be combined with money from developer Mark Kauffman and art gallery Alfstad& Contemporary to buy a $200,000 sculpture that will be installed on Ringling Boulevard.
There are several new wrinkles to this collaboration. Kauffman is the developer of multiple properties near the downtown core, including developments at 1500 State St., 242 S. Washington Blvd. and 1936 S. Ringling Blvd.
When a developer undertakes a new project, the city requires a contribution to its public art fund. In total, Kauffman’s three projects would generate $61,525 for that fund.
Kauffman was interested in exploring another option. Developers are allowed to provide public art on-site instead of paying into the public art fund, but the artwork is tied to individual projects. Kauffman wanted to combine his contributions to purchase a more significant piece of artwork.
He wanted to go even bigger than that, too. He targeted the intersection of Ringling Boulevard, Links Avenue and Golf Street — right next to his Sabal Palm bank building — as the site for what he envisioned as a truly outstanding sculpture. He reached out to Sam Alfstad, the owner of Alfstad& Contemporary, and honed in on a piece he was selling by Brooklyn sculptor Boaz Vaadia.
“We have a significant amount of inventory now in art, and they’re all around the city and they’re very enjoyable,” Kauffman said. “But we don’t have a single world-class piece of sculpture.”
One problem: That sculpture came with a $200,000 price tag. Even if the city allowed Kauffman to bundle his public art contributions, he was asking for $140,000 in public art funds to secure the statue — a figure the Public Art Committee balked at during a November meeting.
With Kauffman’s proposal at risk of falling apart, Alfstad stepped up. He agreed to contribute $70,000 toward the sculpture, forging the basis for the agreement approved Monday.
Why did a private citizen agree to fund a significant public art expense? For Alfstad, he hoped it would be precedent-setting — that other residents would feel motivated to contribute to the artistic fabric of the city. He said Sarasota is capable of growing as an arts destination, particularly when it comes to visual arts.
“We have the institutions here,” Alfstad said. “We just need to make some investments, make some news and let people know Sarasota isn’t just going to throw together little bits and pieces of sculpture.”
The city, Kauffman and Alfstad& Contemporary will split the cost of the sculpture, titled “Ba’al & Yizhaq,” three ways. Kauffman will donate part of his Ringling Boulevard property to the city, and will cover the cost of installing the statue on that land. The city will assume full ownership of the statue.
Now, the city will work on revising its regulations to allow other developers to bundle their public art contributions and seek public funds. Any spending will be at the discretion of the City Commission, which unanimously approved Kauffman’s proposal.
Alfstad was happy to see the city embrace a new avenue for growing its public art offerings.
“We want to get Sarasota known as a cultural center, an arts center,” he said. “Whether it’s coming from the public domain or private domain is kind of less important.”
The city also approved a $150,000 budget for the construction of the Jorge Blanco sculpture “Bravo!”
The colorful statue will occupy the center of a forthcoming roundabout at Orange Avenue and Ringling Boulevard. Although the commission voted 4-1 to approve the expenditure, the sculpture was subject to one last round of criticism.
Before the vote, land use attorney Dan Lobeck stepped forward to offer a pointed assessment of the artwork.
“Oh my gosh, that thing is just plain ugly,” Lobeck said. “It’s a visual cacophony. That looks like an erector set hangover. If that’s a stunning visual representation of what the city’s all about, I think the city should engage in some serious self-examination.”
Lobeck’s withering critique failed to sway the commission. As a result, the local artist’s sculpture will be placed in the roundabout after it is constructed next year.