TARPON SPRINGS — The long-running effort to bring an art installation to the west end of the Sponge Docks is almost over, as city officials have finally agreed on a base for the Naiads sculptures last week.
For the past five years Tarpon Springs officials, led by Commissioner Rea Sieber, have been working to bring a decorative art installation to the roundabout at the western end of Dodecanese Boulevard. The first idea was a statue of a sponge diver holding a mermaid. Number two was the four-piece Naiads installation the city acquired in 2017 from the Lubbock, Texas-born sculptor Glenna Goodacre.
During a contentious discussion in December, the City Commission rejected a pair of proposed costly bases for the Naiads. Sieber insisted at the Jan. 6 commission meeting the city move forward immediately with the original base proposal, a natural rock foundation with a water feature. The sculptures depict water nymphs from Greek mythology.
“For the base to be not natural is really not fitting,” Sieber, a past president of the local merchants association who owns a business near the roundabout, said. A base that wasn’t natural would take away from the art, she said.
“But I feel after waiting five years for this project, it’s time we move on with it, and I’d really like tonight to decide which way we want to go,” Sieber said.
Sieber was frustrated by the fact that the installation stalled due to what she called miscommunication between city officials and the Public Art Committee, which put forward the two base proposals commissioners rejected in December.
When City Manager Mark LeCouris said adding a water feature to the base would be costly and work-intensive, Sieber responded that an irrigation system was already in place to water the potted palms and shrubbery that ring the roundabout.
“We have water there because that’s how the plants are watered,” she said. “And I’ve spoken to people who work down there, and they said it would not be that difficult to add a spout coming out with a pump for water.”
Sieber said she met with the Public Art Committee earlier in the day to clear the air. She proposed holding regular joint work sessions to ensure the committee receives the guidance necessary to properly execute the commission’s public art plans, she said.
“In talking with the art committee today I felt like we were on a different page,” Sieber said. “I think we need to have a special session with them to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Commissioner Susan Miccio-Kikta agreed with Sieber, about the need for the work session and the natural base for the naiads.
“I feel we all need to get on the same page and get together with the Public Art Committee for a work session,” she said.
The replacement base proposal is “so much more natural looking, and I think it’s a much better option,” Kikta said, adding, “I think it needs a water feature, not paint.”
Sherry Orr, the art committee chair, said committee members “100 percent” support installing a natural base “immediately.”
“And if we can have some type of water feature — it doesn’t have to be huge — but it would be nice if they had water,” Orr said.
After Mayor Chris Alahouzos proposed using stone the city had imported from one of Tarpon’s sister cities, Kalymnos, Greece, for the foundation, the proposal to move forward with a natural base with a water feature passed 5-0.
After the meeting, Sieber said the effort to bringing public art to the west end of the Sponge Docks started with the idea of the sponge diver and the mermaid but, “before I knew it that completely changed, and we were getting the Naiads, which was fine, but the design of the base completely changed.”
Sieber again praised the work of the Public Art Committee and reiterated her desire to keep the lines of communication open. “The whole reason this was delayed was miscommunication and we need to make sure we give them proper direction to make sure this never happens again,” she said.
“But it was important to me that we made a decision tonight,” Sieber added, “and I’m happy we’re moving forward.”