Art for Everyone: Downtown Sarasota’s Intersections
Sarasota has a long, at times controversial, history of supporting public art, most notably the much lauded (or much-despised, depending on whom you ask) structures that have been erected along the Bayfront as part of Sarasota’s Season of Sculpture, now in its fifth season. This year, the City of Sarasota added a little avant-garde to the cityscape with the unveiling of Intersections, a year-long installation of 12 pieces of public art placed around the downtown Sarasota shopping areas. The project was designed as a competition of sorts. The 12 pieces will stand for one year, whereupon a winner will be chosen, purchased and included in the City’s public art fund.
The project was proposed by the public art committee, a volunteer City Commission advisory board, in 2009. It was the brainchild of Virginia Hoffman, who was on the board at the time of proposal but who now works as a volunteer public art coordinator for the City Commission. The response to the proposal was largely positive, though some members of the Commission felt it wasn’t the best use of public art funds. “It’s nothing new or revolutionary,” Hoffman says. “A lot of communities have done similar things with public art in retail areas. The artwork is placed randomly throughout the shopping areas and creates interest and adds vitality.”
Clearwater’s Sculpture360 project, the work of the City’s public art and design program, most closely resembles Intersections, though Sculpture360 includes three sculptures to Intersections’ 12. The Sarasota project began with an open call to artists on the City’s website. “We wanted to get as many Florida artists as we could,” Hoffman says.
City Senior Planner Clifford Smith was involved from the beginning. “It’s been a very long project,” Smith says. “It took a year for the call to artists, then the selection process, then the installation.” Selected artists were provided with a stipend of $2,500 to cover the materials, time and cost of moving their work. The stipend also leases the works for one year.
“The support offered by the City and the stipend provided was extraordinary,” says North Port artist Mark Chew, whose sculpture “Vertigo,” a nine-foot- tall stainless steel piece, resides on the corner of Laurel Street and Orange Avenue. Chew became interested in creating public art after a visit to the Bayfront’s Season of Sculpture a decade ago. Chew has worked with public art programs in the United States and Canada, including a piece for the Korean War Memorial at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum in Ormond Beach, unveiled on Veterans Day, November 11, last year. “The risk and challenge is much greater [when the work is being made] on a public scale,” Chew says.
Dave Gonya, a Sarasota artist, created “Silver Siren”—which stands on the 50 block of Palm Avenue—with certain concerns in mind: “The main difference [with producing public art here] is designing a piece that will be safe in the Florida winds and weather,” he says. Gonya’s piece is made of heavy aluminum and stands more than eight feet tall. “You want a piece that is attractive to a broad audience of people—one that will stimulate conversation, one that [people] notice.”
Along with the challenges of producing art with the general public in mind, there is still the matter of competition, something many artists are not necessarily used to.
“As a sculptor, the opportunity to participate in a competition that is both local and which gives financial compensation enough to complete the work involved is quite rare,” says Sarasota artist James Evans, whose steel sculpture “Community Figures” also stands on the 50 block of Palm Avenue. For “Community Figures” Evans had a local paint shop powder coat the work, something he doesn’t normally do. “This was the first time I ever allowed anyone else to work on any of my sculptures. [Then] the work is placed on the street and [I] handed it over to the environment. I found the experience to be quite nerve-racking and more than a little humbling.”
Intersections was unveiled in January at the newly renovated Selby Five Points Park, where three of the 12 pieces reside. The Pine View Jazz Band played for the athered crowd. Eight of the 12 artists were in attendance.
“It was the first public event in [Selby Five Points Park] since its renovation,” says Hoffman. “It was really wonderful timing.” The City Commission will select the winner in November. Though nothing is currently planned, Hoffman hopes the project will continue, perhaps biannually.
Few cities can claim to have such a thriving local music scene as Sarasota’s. A combination of talented, ambitious, young musicians, several supportive small venues that host local shows and a number of successful local music festivals makes for a certain vibrancy. Where St. Petersburg and Orlando might pull national acts, Sarasota music is driven almost exclusively by Sarasota bands. The success of April’s Noise Ordinance 2 and May’s Harvey Milk Festivals, at the Cock and Bull Pub and in the Rosemary District, respectively, are testament to this. A wave of indie bands has washed through our quaint retirement community. From hip hop to dark wave to indie pop and everything in between, Sarasota’s local music scene is something to be proud of. Here are some of the groups you should make a point to see.
This indie pop sextet plays power pop of the highest order, something between Guided By Voices and Rilo Kiley. Vocalists Ciera Galbraith and Jesse Coleman belt out sugary sweet nothings about being young and silly and in love, which they both are in real life (they are getting married in November at Sarasota Architectural Salvage). The band is rounded out by keytarist and backup vocalist Aimee Guerin, who in her young age possesses a tremendous stage presence, and three rowdy young men: drummer and Sarasota music veteran Pete Stolp, bassist Andrew Fleming and new second guitarist Peter Chandler Murray.
Sons of Hippies
With two records under their belt and a seriously raucous live show, three-piece rockers Sons of Hippies are Sarasota’s answer to Sonic Youth, a group steeped in ’90s grunge, but consciously and thoroughly modern: Heavy distortion, lyrics not screamed or sung as much as shouted and heavy, driving progressions. Lead singer and guitarist Katherine Kelly rips through sets with purpose, her vocals backed up by drummer Jonas Canales. Sons of Hippies’ live show is something close to the cul- mination of all the better moments of ’60s psych rock, ’80s post-punk a la Husker Du and ’90s noise. Though you can catch them at small venues like Pastimes Pub in Gulf Gate, their sound is loud enough to fill any space they are given.
Self-proclaimed “prog-hop” band, SECRETscience premiered earlier this year. The super group is the product of bassist and sound man Darrin Johnson, formerly of Simon Said, MC Brad Fries (B. Fries), sound designer Frank Enright (aka DJ Ansidis) and drummer Brad Murray, formerly of Tepado! and Midhaven. If Outkast and Faith No More shacked up and produced a love child, this would be it: lighthearted, rapid-fire rhymes (about, among other things, new shoes and, more specifically, new Crocs), soaring choruses and jazz-inspired, utterly complicated rhythms, all combine for a sound that is at once familiar and unique. They are decidedly dance music. Though they can get a crowd moving at the Blue Owl or The Closet before its closing, they are destined for bigger venues—the Gator Clubs and Ivories of the area.
Anyone who has caught one of Fancy Rat’s sprawling live shows will agree: Fancy Rat is, if nothing else, a really good time. French horn, pots and pans and plenty of claps layered with acoustic, electric and blues guitars, bass and drums, Fancy Rat is part punk, part noise, part folk and all fun—a touch of late-’90s Modest Mouse, a dash of Against Me! and plenty of uniquely original flair.
Many a local’s great indie hope, MeteorEYES brings a full-fledged stadium presence and production to local venues, with cosmic lighting, costuming and a sound not unlike Placebo or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs—electronic, but grounded in rock ’n’ roll. Their sound is fully realized, a sonic landscape of bass, synth and noise with stunning vocals.
The End of the Dial Tone…
John Lichtenstein’s ever–evolving brainchild, The End of the Dial Tone Radical Experimental Collaborative Band Band, has been confusing, confounding and astounding audiences for more than a year now, playing everywhere from Will’s Honkytonk to Horse Feathers to the Gator Club. The group is made up of a rotating cast of more than a dozen musicians, performing in groups of six to eight, who feed off one another spontaneously—no rehearsals, no set list, no plan—not unlike jazz musicians of the ’50s, relying on the nonlanguage understood by practiced musicians. The shows are a total experience, a noisy, rowdy, often anarchic, sometimes euphoric production. When the musicians aren’t jiving well, it’s just noise. But when things come together it’s pure magic, ecstatic musical beauty.
WRITTEN BY ASHTON GOGGANS // PHOTO COURTESY OF VIRGINIA HOFFMAN
Read Next Connect Feature
To access all SRQ articles, become a magazine subscriber today!