I am the link between Mark Krucke and Mark Lyons, my name is Katie and I am in a unique position. I find myself feeling responsible for the controversy that has engulfed my family in recent months. One of the best things that has happened to my young family of three has turned into a never-ending nightmare that my extended family, my friends and the community has been forced to suffer through slowly and without resolution thus far. I have been sad. I have become despondent after reading article after article explaining the scenario in selective bits and pieces while hurling insults at the people I love most. My signature optimism faded into silence and I felt like I had no control over my own future. Until now. I have begun to open up to the community of people here that I have come to love, respect, and call my dear friends. I have felt supported in a way that only the luckiest can know. I want to share my individual experience as the link between two men, trying their best to improve the community that I chose and care deeply for. I am a woman of many layers but there are certain aspects of me that have been screaming, suffering and enduring through this and they deserve to be heard. I also believe that I have the obligation to make my most sincere attempts at setting the record straight. The public deserves to know the whole story and the full impact that this situation has on my family, the community, and the future of artists in Sarasota.

My husband and I are both artists. He is a 14-time nationally awarded public sculptor, painter and overall imagineer. I am a sign maker. I have been doing this for five years and freelance occasionally. When I was single, getting by on a freelancers salary (or lack there of) was impossible. I have since found a wonderful company to paint for. Since Mark works with big, dangerous materials over long periods of time to create original works that last forever, he has been able to budget his commissioned art pieces and survive as a professional artist. The key word in that sentence is “Professional.” As an artist, I am furious that the city has been incapable of treating my husband like a professional. While they kept three city employees on paid leave and completed an internal investigation citing that no nepotism or bias influenced the Art Committee’s selection, Mark Krucke has yet to be informed of his next step. He has been kept in a state of limbo, unaware of when or if he will present his proposal, Life Aquatic to the City Commissioners like all artists before him in the process to be paid for what he’s earned researching, creating and budgeting the project he is most proud of in his career thus far. The city attorney is the only person who has had a real conversation with him to review where he stands, confirming that his hands are clean and that he has every right as a citizen to meet with the City Commissioners. When the investigation on my father closed, the findings were innocent, a victim of failed bureaucracy punished thoroughly for failing to notify HR of their relationship. The City Manager, Tom Barwin, has delayed calls with my husband, finally answering one to insult his intelligence and the Art Committee’s competence with phrases like “art is objective.” Mark applied for this public art call, disclosed his relationship with my father to Clifford Smith, senior planner of Historic Preservation and overseer of the Art Committee, and was chosen for a wayfinding system that incorporates Sarasota’s identity with nature into the downtown area. By the time the City reaches a decision on where he stands as the selected artist, he may have missed opportunities on jobs that are willing to pay artists for the work they do to improve their communities. A professional artist’s life depends on his employers being open and honest about monetary time frames in order for careful planning to occur. This courtesy has not been given by a city that prides itself on valuing the arts. To put it frankly, art cannot happen without Artists. I am outraged that the city of Sarasota has not respected my profession enough to even discuss the future of a local artists project with him personally.

I have been married to Mark for two happy years; before that we were creating art together for three. As his wife I am heartbroken. I saw how hard he worked, tirelessly reviewing his proposal to me, researching effective way finding systems and the most inviting colors to include. I am saddened that his flourishing career is tarnished by reckless reports made by the Herald-Tribune, Channel 7 News and SRQ Magazine. Their stories were inaccurate by omission and left little room for the public to form their own opinion.

I understand what it takes to catch a readers attention, the public wants scandal and excitement. The problem with that is when real people suffer in response. The city is avoiding my husband and he may lose one of the biggest art commissions of his career because it is more interesting to frame the story in a way that seems more thrilling. [Committee member Benjamin] Grijalva changed his mind after five hours of presentations, perhaps without ever once looking at the actual requirements of the art call. My father was asked to speak as the authority on the facility; that is not mentioned in the articles by SRQ. He did not volunteer his opinion unprovoked. He was asked by committee member [Leslie] Butterfield for staff input. This was not mentioned in the article, along with a discussion that was held before and after my father was asked to speak. The support of the other few meeting attendees speaks volumes in my opinion and it may to your readers as well. I truly believe that the bare bones of this story would suffice as the two proposals, back to back. It doesn't take any bias to see that the Parker/Brazil project, while creative, would be exactly what my father said, difficult. Ultimately ineffective as a wayfinding system. Leaving out the details that prompted my fathers reaction was reckless in my view. 

I urge you to click on the link (http://sarasota.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=30&clip_id=9023) to view the Art Committee selection meeting, which shows all the top five presentations, the discussion after tying and the Art Committee’s conversation to form your own opinion of the events. When I Googled Mark’s name two months ago, his gorgeous sculptures that sit in different cities across the Midwest and east coast came up. Now articles framing him to be an accomplice to nepotism appear, void of many realities of the situation. He has become a victim of defamation when his hands are clean. I am not the only supporter of Mark’s nature driven artwork in our home, Sarasota. Another member of the public spoke up after the second tie during the Art Committee selection process before my father was asked to speak by the committee. He praised Mark’s work for being made and sourced locally, for being simple, easy to understand and for encouraging garage visitors to think outside themselves and remember that our beloved city is part of a bigger, grander ecosystem that protects us all.

My father is the center of this scandal. He was hired as the Parking Director of the city six years ago and has been living ethically in an over-politicized environment. He has been witness to the small town drama that occurs regularly in City Hall and kept his name clean until recently. When Mark applied for the public art call, my father disclosed this information to Clifford Smith and David Smith, who oversee the Art Committee. He was reassured by them that no conflict of interest exists since he is a non voting member of the public and was asked to attend the meeting personally. During the meeting he was asked to speak by the Art Committee to give insight to the facilities capabilities in regard to feasibility. The project that my husband had tied with was elaborate, beautiful but difficult. That is an objective opinion and it can be confirmed personally for you by viewing the proposals online (http://sarasota.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=30&clip_id=9023.) The committee wanted to know if the proposal was practical, and as the authority on the facility in question, my father answered honestly. If you think that this comment, that industrial paint spraying six levels of ceiling in a downtown public parking garage, is biased towards my husband then I urge you to research the process. I am not insulting the other project; I think their proposal was gorgeous, smart and creative, I just don't think it was as highly functioning as necessary for a piece designed to help people navigate a parking garage. To be clear: no simple color scheme was used by them to affiliate levels of the garage. This aspect of a wayfinding system is basic and almost required for members of the public to recall where they parked based on research. Again, I encourage you to see the proposals for yourself while keeping the purpose of the artwork in mind.

I personally use the parking garage in question often. My family visits the farmers market, the restaurants, library and Bayfront Park weekly. My husband designed his project with our son, and his little bitty friends in mind. He wanted to create a space in the cold, tight parking garage that would calm and peak the interest of the citizens of Sarasota who are most easily stimulated, the young and the old. The calming color selection and the comforting animals are meant to put families at peace while they maneuver through a sometimes confusing and tight space. The jellyfish sculptures add a bit of whimsy and a carefree attitude that Sarasota has the reputation of having. We are, after all in “paradise.” I want my son to grow up in a community that caters to its youngest citizens and reminds the visitors to keep the locals in mind. The environmental impact of facing city visitors with the ecosystem they are surrounded by is less litter, more responsible decisions and an overall chill attitude that only nature can provide. I want my son growing up in that kind of city, one that values art, the ecosystem and all of its citizens.

As a citizen myself, I am concerned. Based on the City Manager’s comments to my husband, this decision seems to be more determined by articles than what actually happened. Ignoring facts in the face of adversity is a path that I would be distressed to see our city take. The people in this community deserve honesty. They deserve to help make decisions about the future of the facilities that they use. As an active member of the community myself, I know they support art and they support local residents. Mark’s project is as local as it gets, down to the sea creatures depicted. I hope for the city to untie themselves from this bureaucratic mess and continue with my husbands project as planned. The decision is for the City Commissioners to make and as a citizen, you have a hand in their opinions so please view my husbands proposal, imagine what my family has gone through these past few months and consider what it means to you to be a part of a community that supports its local residents, the artists that make this city beautiful, and the ecosystem that supports our existence in this region. Thank you for your time.