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Sad kiss goodbye?

No. Say it won’t be so. Unconditional Surrender sets Sarasota apart. Keep it on the bayfront.

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You know how this is going to turn out.

It’s Sarasota.

Something fun? Something whimsical? Something that draws hundreds and thousands of money-spending visitors a year right where Sarasota wants them — in walking distance of downtown?

Are you kidding? Why would the city’s culturati, literati and illuminati want that?

Yuck. All that bourgeois cluttering and littering the bayfront. All that laughing, loving, hugging, kissing and photographing.

Oh, how declasse.

And it gets worse: It’s the three times larger-than-life symbol of you know what. How could any respectable city give such a despicable act such public prominence and approval?

There simply is no excuse for the behavior of that young sailor in 1945 to be celebrating with absolute, unabashed jubilation when the nation learned, at long last, that the greatest and worst war the world had ever known had come to an end.

Who cares about the historical significance of that oversized sculpture of that most famous photograph? Tear it down with all the rest of those old-war statues.

This is 2020, by gosh. Wipe it all out. Get rid of history. Ship it over to the Sahib Shriners building over on Beneva Road, and get it out of sight.

We cannot allow anything that makes people smile, that could draw even more tourists — and heaven forbid, we don’t want more traffic!

That’s the way it typically goes in Sarasota. The Grinches of Whoville. And when the Sarasota City Commission votes next month to decide the fate of Unconditional Surrender, it won’t be much of a surprise if the commissioners kiss that sculpture goodbye.

But wait a minute.

Let’s start over … with that age-old question: What is art?

You know the bromide: Art is in the eye of the beholder. So of course you would expect the  Sarasota Public Art Committee members to poo-poo Unconditional Surrender. It’s not art, some of the members tell us. Just look across the street on the east side of Gulfstream and U.S. 41 at that tall red … steel … thing. Now that’s art!


If truth be told, this shouldn’t be a debate about art and whether Unconditional Surrender deserves to be on the bayfront. The truth is Unconditional Surrender is an attraction. In fact, an extraordinarily successful tourist attraction. Talk about low maintenance and high ROI. It doesn’t need to be renourished for millions of tax dollars every six years; nor does it require a small army of city workers driving around in carts with chalk sticks and tickets (and nice health care benefits).

If commissioners think rationally next month, they would think about:

n What if the statue is no longer on the bayfront? What distinguishing characteristic would set downtown Sarasota apart from anywhere else? There are plenty of bayfronts in Florida, but Unconditional Surrender adds some panache and character that you don’t see anywhere else. It fits the city’s arts-and-culture chic. And for sure, you won’t ever see groups of happy people hugging, kissing, having fun and taking photos at the foot of Big Red.

n There is plenty of economic value and benefit for the city in Unconditional Surrender. It would be hard to measure, but nevertheless, you can be sure that statue helps Main Street and St. Armands Circle merchants and restaurants. To be sure, it helps Marina Jack’s. Out of every dollar spent in those locations, a portion goes into city coffers. Every dollar not spent means higher property taxes for city residents.

If anything, when that commission meeting occurs, there should be ample representation from the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and downtown and St. Armands merchants making the case that this is not a debate about “What is art?”

Unconditional Surrender has become a city icon. It should stay on the bayfront, close to U.S. 41, where everyone can see it and be easily accessible for visitors to gather and express their joy and love for one another.

Imagine that: something that triggers not hate and dissent but love and joy.

Keep Unconditional Surrender on the bayfront.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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