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Sarasota community remembers life of sculptor Glenna Goodacre

Goodacre, who has three sculptures in Sarasota, died at the age of 80.

  • By
  • | 12:10 p.m. May 7, 2020
Glenna Goodacre sits in her studio. Photo courtesy
Glenna Goodacre sits in her studio. Photo courtesy
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Sarasota is home to many works of art, including those of abstract expressionist Syd Solomon and, of course, Seward Johnson’s “Unconditional Surrender.”

But the artist of some of the city’s most expressive work, sculptor Glenna Goodacre, died April 13, leaving many in the area feeling a loss.

"Olympic Wannabes" is located at Bayfront Park. Brynn Mechem

“Her work is so charming and whimsical,” said Jim Shirley, executive director of Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. “I think she struck a chord with a lot of people.”

Represented locally since 1999 by Galleria Silecchia, Goodacre is responsible for three sculptures in Sarasota.

Perhaps her most famous Sarasota sculpture, “Olympic Wannabees,” is located at Bayfront Park in Sarasota and features five cartwheeling children.

It came to Sarasota thanks to the support of art lovers.

In November 2000, Goodacre visited Sarasota for the grand opening of Galleria Silecchia’s second gallery. Co-owners and directors Louis Chalupa and Candy Silecchia arranged a retrospective to Goodacre’s early career.

Among  the bronzes on display was “Olympic Wannabees.” During the following months, many gallery visitors expressed a desire for the sculpture to be installed in Five Points Park near Selby Library.

In spring 2001, a woman wrote a $25 check to begin raising funds to keep the sculpture in Sarasota. Moved by her donation, Chalupa and Silecchia proposed the idea to the city’s Public Art Committee.

“She said: ‘This piece must stay in Sarasota. I want to be the first person to help make that real,’” Chalupa said.

The $25 donation was the first toward a total of $180,000.

The fundraiser was “all or nothing,” Chalupa said. If the city did not raise all the funds by December 2001, the sculpture and donations would be returned. After Sept. 11, 2001, donations dwindled and fell short.

"Facts of Life" was placed behind the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 2000. Brynn Mechem

However, Goodacre returned to Sarasota in February 2002 and agreed to extend fundraising until August 2002.

On Feb. 7, 2002, “Olympic Wannabees” was installed at Five Points Park, and Goodacre was given the keys to the city. In that weekend, Galleria Silecchia hosted three receptions for Goodacre because there were so many residents who wanted to meet her.

By July, there was still $70,000 to be raised, and a private collector wanted the sculpture for his own.

“What I want for my birthday is for someone to walk into the gallery and hand Louis a check for $70,000,” Silecchia said she wished at the time.

"Olympic Wannabes" shows five children in various stages of a cartwheel. Brynn Mechem

Two weeks later, a couple wrote a check for $70,000. In all, there were more than 240 donations.

“The whole story and the miracle at the end to make it happen just says a lot about Sarasota and about the residents’ love of art,” Chalupa said.

In 2007, the sculpture was moved to Bayfront Park, where it still remains. Goodacre also has two other sculptures in Sarasota.

“Facts of Life,” a sculpture that depicts three children in deep conversation, was installed behind Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 2000.

In 2014, “Carefree,” a sculpture of a young boy and girl laughing and skipping, was installed at the Glasser/Scheonbaum Human Services Center. It was gifted by Betty Schoenbaum to honor the retirement of the center’s longtime executive director, Philip King.


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