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Iconic Gulfstream Avenue steel sculpture seeks new home

Complexus, the jewel of Sarasota's public art collection, will be heading for a Fruitville Road site if both the city and county governments approve.

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Members of Sarasota’s Public Art Committee are learning that relocating a piece of sculpture can be complex. 

Such is the case with Complexus, a 70-foot-tall, red, steel sculpture that was so much the darling of the 2013 Sarasota Season of Sculpture that some of the festival’s board members and others raised $500,000 to purchase the John Henry piece and donate it to the city’s public art collection.

Complexus by John Henry was acquired by the city of Sarasota in 2012.
Image via City of Sarasota Public Art Collection

Since then, it stood near the high-visibility intersection of Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41 until it was moved to the Sarasota Art Museum in order to make way for the construction of the roundabout there. 

The museum would now like for the city to retake possession of the sculpture, which Mary Davis Wallace, the city’s public art coordinator, told the PAC at its Feb. 7 meeting is in need of significant repairs because it is “rusting from the inside out.” She also described the process of moving it to its preferred location at an empty, Sarasota County-owned lot at the corner of Beneva and Fruitville roads.

Before planning can begin on a platform, lighting and other installation infrastructure, though, the county must approve permanently hosting Complexus there. 

"The relocation of Complexus to Fruitville and Beneva would be a magnificent gesture,” Wallace said. “It would be a gateway piece. It has room to breathe, and there's blue sky and air. There are also multiple opportunities for activation in this area.”

Those opportunities exist because there is plenty of room for parking. Committee members suggested asking the county for permission to install a pervious surface parking lot that would allow the public to park and interact with the piece. From there, people could access a future Legacy Trail extension across Fruitville Road into Bobby Jones Golf Club and Nature Park and to points beyond.

Complexus was moved from its original location at Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41 to the Sarasota Art Museum in January 2021.
Image via City of Sarasota Public Art Collection

Wallace warned the complexity will come in working with two jurisdictions, starting at the staff level with city and county governments and eventually working the way up to approvals of both city and county commissions. Any considerations beyond placing the sculpture in what is now a stormwater collection site may be prohibitive.

“This would all be contingent on what the county would allow the city to do,” she said. “It’s easy for us to make a recommendation to place a piece of public art there. I think it would be more difficult for us to recommend using their property for parking, but if we can activate this by requesting that we utilize that space for a piece of art, I think the parking could come with it. But I think just singularly asking them if we can park there for our amenities probably would not go over well.”

Committee members suggested if the Fruitville Road site is untenable, a viable alternative may be Payne Park. There is currently no time frame for consideration by either elected body.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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