TARPON SPRINGS — Following a year of turmoil and turnover that included a complete reconfiguration of the board, the Tarpon Springs Public Art Committee has righted the ship and is planning to unveil some art projects in the city throughout the rest of this year.
During a couple of recent meetings held virtually via Zoom conference call, PAC members discussed a wide range of projects in the pipeline, including murals and sculptures, illuminated art boxes and more.
While the plan to turn a couple of blank walls between Safford Avenue and Hibiscus Street into a “mural alley” has been scuttled because of prohibitive insurance costs, other projects, including an illuminated art walk at the Sponge Docks and the installation of sculptures at several sites in town, are moving forward as planned, according to PAC chair Joan Jennings.
“Now that the insurance is in place, we’re going to shift our focus to only doing murals on city property utilizing students and local artists,” Jennings said of the plan to install murals on the sides of the Tarpon Tavern and Tuscan Sun Italian Bistro downtown, which had been held up due to costly insurance coverage. City Manager Mark LeCouris recently announced that mural work up to $1,000 would be covered under the city’s insurance policy.
“So, the artist alley is unfortunately going to go by the boards,” she said. “But we feel that since it’s Tarpon Springs’ money we’re spending on these murals, they should go on Tarpon Springs property.”
In addition to searching for new mural candidates, Jennings gave a status update on several other projects, including the illuminated art walk planned for the docks.
“I think the light boxes will be a great addition to the Sponge Docks,” she said of the plan to install 20 solar-powered boxes on light poles in the historic tourist district that will house original artwork from local and student artists. “It’s something that is completely unique to Tarpon Springs, it’s cost effective because they use solar power, and they will provide a showcase for talented young and local artists.”
While the first box, featuring a colorful squid created by SPC-Tarpon Springs student and PAC member Theo Ioannou, was installed in May, Jennings said for now they plan to use artists from the Tarpon Springs Art Association to fill the other boxes that are on order. “We’re going to start with artists from the Art Association because it’s summer and we want to get this up and running,” she said.
Other projects the PAC is overseeing include a massive mural being painted inside the recently refurbished Tarpon Springs Cultural Center on South Pinellas Avenue by renowned local artist Elizabeth Indianos, and the installation of a sculpture by the late Glenna Goodacre outside the facility.
Future projects will see a series of metal pelicans by local artist Kyle Pearce installed at the docks in the fall as well as a Bahamian sponge diver that would reflect the area’s cultural heritage. Also planned is a major art project at the city’s Public Safety Facility that could include a redesign of the 9/11 memorial on the site.
“The Board of Commissioners in February approved a major art project for the Public Safety Facility,” Jennings said, adding, “the current monument is in disrepair and we hope the new project will incorporate a renovation of that monument.”
With so much on their plate, Jennings said she was thankful for the cooperation from the city’s PAC liaison, Tarpon Springs Police Chief Robert Kochen, as well as the addition of several new board members to help with all the heavy lifting.
“I’m happy that, in spite of everything, we’re actually accomplishing something and bringing new, unique public art projects to Tarpon Springs,” Jennings said.