TARPON SPRINGS – In December 2017, the City Commission agreed to purchase the Naiads sculptures from renowned Texas-based sculptor Glenna Goodacre using Public Art Committee funds with a directive to find a suitable base for the four bronze water nymph statues.
The statue is supposed to be installed at the traffic roundabout at the western end of Dodecanese Boulevard.
A year later, the City Commission has rejected a pair of proposals presented by PAC Chair Sherry Orr.
Despite extensive work that went into the process — two out-of-state artists were chosen from a pool of eight applicants, with each submitting detailed renderings of their proposals — two commissioners were adamantly opposed to the chosen designs, forcing the committee to go back to the drawing board.
“To be honest, I don’t think either of these are fitting to these statues today,” Commissioner Jacob Karr, who voted against purchasing the Naiads, told Orr during the Dec. 11 City Commission meeting. The estimated costs of the bases, between $26,000 and $28,000, was nearly double that of the original estimate, he noted.
Karr said he thought the cost of the base was too high in relation to the cost of the Naiads, which he believed to be $75,000, until Orr pointed out the sculptures cost $175,000.
“Still, the Naiads aren’t being represented well enough for the type of statues that they are,” Karr replied.
One the two proposals chosen by the PAC, from Minnesota artist James Gabbert, featured a vertical stainless-steel design. The other, by New Yorker Haifa Bint-Kadi, was highlighted by a blue mosaic that Commissioner Rea Sieber felt closely resembled the current work at the roundabout the Naiads would replace.
Karr and Sieber both said the base proposals were not natural enough and lacked a water feature. In Greek mythology, naiads are female water nymphs who inhabit fresh bodies of water, including fountains, wells, springs and streams.
“I would like something simpler, where the art is more appreciated,” Sieber said.
Karr also noted the nearly $40,000 estimated price tag for the base could be used for other projects. “That is one or two more projects that we’re not going to be able to do,” he said.
After Sieber reiterated she preferred a simpler design featuring natural rock and running water, Karr made a motion to reject the two proposals and have the PAC start from scratch.
The motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Chris Alahouzos and Commissioner David Banther voting against the motion. Each had expressed support for the mosaic design.
“Well, I guess we go back to the drawing board,” Alahouzos said.
After the meeting, Orr, said she accepted the commission’s decision.
“That’s OK,” Orr said. “They have a right to their opinion, and it means we somehow need to come up with new ideas, something more natural that doesn’t distract from the beauty of the Naiads.
“So, we’re going to work on some new ideas and see if they like them.”
Orr noted the bases represent one of many projects the Public Arts Committee is working on, including bike racks, murals and others, but she said the Naiads project is “really important to us, and we want them to be pleased. The city belongs to the people and we’re a committee of representatives trying to do what’s right for the city.”