A sculpture by local artist Jorge Blanco should be featured at the center of the planned roundabout at Ringling Boulevard and Orange Avenue, Sarasota’s Public Art Committee decided Tuesday.
The roughly 20-foot-tall, powder-coated aluminum sculpture called “BRAVO!” received the highest rank and unanimous approval among three finalists chosen from among more than 160 submissions for the new roundabout.
Although all three were lauded for their creativity and uniqueness, Blanco’s planned sculpture was described as joyful, organic and fitting for the section of downtown, the five-member committee agreed.
“From my background as an artist and art expert, if you want to call me that, I favor Mr. Blanco’s look because of its lines, its texture,” member Tim Jaeger said. “Its shape, its form, its face … It’s an important example to set; it serves a real purpose and function.”
Blanco is a prolific sculptor whose work appears across the globe as well as throughout Sarasota, such as the three yellow and red running figures in the median of U.S. 41 near Municipal Auditorium.
The main aluminum frame of the piece will be white, and several of the discs at its top will be colored red, black and blue. The different “arms” of the piece represent dance, music and the visual arts throughout the city, he said.
“I’m trying to express with this piece the cultural energy of Sarasota,” Blanco said.
The committee’s recommendation will be presented to the City Commission for final consideration in early December, but it inadvertently finds itself swirling in the near constant debate about public art in Sarasota and how it is picked.
In April, the city unveiled the “Embracing our Differences” sculpture in the new roundabout at Main Street and Orange Avenue. The 20-foot-tall, multicolored piece received some mixed reviews and questions about how it fits in the city’s overall public art collection — a question that has dogged the public art process for years.
City Commissioner Susan Chapman was critical of that piece, and she unloaded on the three finalists for the next roundabout in an email to city staff last week.
“All I can say is, I will be embarrassed every single day if any of these designs are accepted,” Chapman wrote. “One is derivative of Henry Moore. One is garishly ugly. The third (Blanco’s piece) is an unfinished design.”
The wide variety of opinion about art across the city is not lost on the Public Art Committee, though, members agreed. Committee member Marvin Mills also argued that public art is even more important as highly criticized redevelopment spreads downtown.
“That’s (the city’s) general mode: traffic jams, the Vue and so on,” Mills said. “Therefore, when we put additional artworks in the city, we have to take into account there is a growing discord in the city, and we should look for a calming effect if possible. An effect that won’t add to the confusion or the anarchy, but possibly organize it to some extent.”