Local Sculptor Tops Short List for Roundabout Project

Public Art

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING WEDNESDAY AUG 17, 2016

With 162 artists from around the world answering the call to artists for original artwork to be placed in the incoming roundabout at Orange Avenue and Ringling Boulevard, members from Sarasota’s Public Art Committee (PAC) met last week to winnow proposals to three finalists. Local sculptor Jorge Blanco leads amongst the finalists, followed by the China-based sculptor Nnamdi Okonkwo. The final decision will be made November 1, giving the selected artist a year to fabricate and install the work, according to the time frame provided by the original call.

“You’re not just looking at the sculpture,” says local artist and PAC member Tim Jaeger. “You’re looking from several different points of view.” Beyond pure aesthetics, the five-member PAC jury has to consider such things as how the proposed piece would fit into Sarasota’s existing public art collection, its accessibility to the public eye and the weight of the concept behind it, as well as more down-to-earth questions of maintenance, material and cost. Jaeger spent more than a week reading through the hundred-plus submissions and weighing proposals.

“It’s an extremely important thing,” says Jaeger, “and I want to make sure we select art that’s not only appropriate for the community but also something they embrace and that contributes to the quality of our public art.” Blanco’s piece stood out as being not only its own expression but also something of a tribute to the performing arts, which resonates with the Sarasota scene. “It’s very gestural and lyrical in nature,” Jaeger says, before turning to Okonkwo’s submission, Unity, a proposed bronze sculpture of totemic human forms caught in a unending dance or embrace. Also a strong contender, if selected the resulting sculpture would weigh approximately 1,300 pounds.

Finalists selected by the PAC, including Blanco and Okonkwo, will be invited to give their final pitch to the committee in person at the November 1 meeting, after which a final decision will be made. But it’s public art and not just a discussion between the PAC and the artists, says Jaeger. The community at large is encouraged to attend, hear the artists, view the proposals and weigh in with their own input for the PAC’s consideration. “It’s an opportunity for everyone in the community to participate and make their voices heard,” he says.

Pictured: Rendering by the artist of Jorge Blanco's proposed sculpture for the roundabout at Orange and Ringling.

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