Punishing Art Hurts Sarasota



I am the link between Mark Krucke and Mark Lyons. I find myself feeling responsible for controversy that has engulfed my family. One of the best things that has happened to my young family has turned into a never-ending nightmare that my extended family, friends and community have been forced to suffer through without resolution thus far. 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 husband is a 14-time nationally awarded public sculptor, painter and overall imagineer. Since Mark works with big, dangerous materials over long periods to create original works, he has been able to budget his commissioned pieces and survive as a professional artist. The key word in that sentence is “professional.” I am furious 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 no nepotism or bias influenced the Art Committee’s selection, Mark 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.  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. 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. By the time the City reaches a decision, he may have missed opportunities on jobs willing to pay artists for the work they do. As his wife, I am heartbroken. I saw how hard he worked, tirelessly reviewing his proposal, researching effective wayfinding systems and the most inviting colors to include. His flourishing career is tarnished by reckless reports made by SRQ magazine and others. Their stories were inaccurate by omission and left little room for the public to form their own opinion. Real people suffer in response.

My father is the center of this scandal. He was hired as the parking director six years ago and has been living ethically in an over-politicized environment. When Mark applied for the public art call, my father disclosed this information. He was reassured no conflict of interest exists since he is a non-voting member of the public. The committee wanted to know if the proposal was practical, and as the authority on the facility, my father answered honestly. [Committee member Benjamin] Grijalva changed his mind after five hours of presentations, perhaps without ever looking at the actual requirements of the call. My father 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. It doesn't take any bias to see that the Parker/Brasil project, while creative, would be exactly what my father said, difficult. 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. 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. Leaving out the details that prompted my father’s reaction was reckless in my view. 

The people in this community deserve honesty. They deserve to help make decisions about the future of the facilities they use. 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 husband’s project as planned. Please view my husband’s proposal, imagine what my family has gone through and consider what it means to you to be a part of a community that supports its residents, artists and the ecosystem that supports our existence.

Katie Krucke is an artist living in Sarasota.

This article has been abridged for space. Click below to read a longer version of the article at SRQMagazine.com.

Complete letter from Katie Krucke

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