The Latest on a Proposed New Artwork for Bayfront Park

Finalists for the project were in town last week to see the site and learn more about our community's diversity.

By Kay Kipling February 4, 2021

Finalists for a proposed public artwork promoting diversity met with local project supporters last week.

Plans are moving forward for a new piece of public art that celebrates diversity and would be installed in a prominent spot in downtown’s Bayfront Park, as we first told you about here.

Last week, members of the committee for the Diversity Public Art Project met at various points around town with five of the six finalists who have proposed ideas for the site. The artists had the opportunity to see the site for themselves and learn more about Sarasota and its demographics.

“We decided the best thing would be for them to actually come here and see our site and get a real sense of it,” says project founder Ken Shelin. “They were impressed with the site [located near the current Embracing Our Differences outdoor exhibit], and they had a chance to talk about what might work there. One is talking about using lights, like the World Trade Center in New York. Another talked about a possible large cast-glass sculpture. It kind of stimulated their creative juices.”

Members of different minority communities here, including the Jewish population and Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ communities, also took part in a panel discussion that provided insights for the artists about our area’s diversity. The artists traveled around town via open-air trolley to see some of Sarasota’s cultural amenities, including the Sarasota Opera, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Ringling College of Art and Design, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Selby Library and many more.

The artists also had the chance to take a trolley tour around town to learn more about the community.

Shelin says it was a unique experience for the artists, who hail from Los Angeles, Tucson, Atlanta, Jacksonville and New York City. They had the opportunity to ask their hosts questions, such as where nearby casting facilities might be.

The space given to the group by the city for the artwork measures 15 feet by 15 feet, although Shelin says that, “If an artist comes up with a really special idea that’s spectacular and we can justify it, we might be able to go beyond the space.”

Next step, he adds: “training our committee on how to make an ask for fund-raising. We hired a professional to train us, and then we will launch our fund-raising campaign. We already did raise a little bit of money up front, for the finalists’ flights and lodging and things like that. We have a $500,000 goal, with $400,000 for the piece and the rest providing an endowment for the city for maintenance for five years, plus other expenses.”

Project leaders hope to have project concepts in hand by July 2021 and will choose a finalist then. When that finalist is notified, the group then will have until summer of 2022 to raise the money to make the piece and have it installed.

The Ringling College of Art and Design’s design center has created a fund-raising brochure with the project’s logo and brand: One Heart: United through Diversity. Stay tuned for more as the campaign gets rolling.



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