TARPON SPRINGS — On June 25, Joan Jennings, vice chair of the city’s Public Art Committee, presented the committee’s report to the City Commission. During the presentation, Jennings outlined the committee’s accomplishments of the past year and revealing some projects in the pipeline for this year.
Jennings said the PAC’s notable 2018-19 projects included the installation of 17 artistic bike racks around town and the installation of the Naiads sculptures at the western end of the Sponge Docks.
In addition, she cited a refresh of the Public Arts brochure “to reflect recent accomplishments” and “assisting the city in the design of gateway signage at several key highway access points to Tarpon Springs.”
After noting the PAC’s fund balance is nearly $300,000, Jennings said the committee is “putting the finishing touches on several projects” for the city’s 2020 budget, which begins Oct. 1. They include fulfilling city commissioners’ request to have “a historical mural and two other large murals painted by local artists” installed downtown, at a projected cost of $100,000.
Money had also been budgeted for things like artists’ plaques, community outreach and education, calls to artists and unveiling ceremonies, according to the PAC presentation.
Jennings then discussed some innovative art projects the committee is working on. They will set Tarpon Springs “apart from the rest of the Pinellas municipalities and, indeed, the state,” Jennings said.
The list included creating an “artist alley,” featuring interactive murals painted on the buildings that line Hibiscus Street.
“We are considering a major mural on a wall of a building, possibly at the entrance to Hibiscus … that would possibly be the focal point and the jewel that would attract pedestrians to the alley,” Jennings said.
Additional proposed projects include: an art sculpture made of recycled products; illuminated solar-powered art boxes; and themed holograms projected over Spring Bayou and the Anclote River.
Jennings concluded the presentation by noting the estimated total expenses for fiscal 2020 is $171,800, leaving $122,648 in the fund for future years.
While many of the projects were hailed by the commission, including Artist Alley, others were met with less enthusiasm.
“I love the idea of the solar-powered boxes,” Commissioner Rea Sieber said, but questioned the idea of holograms over the water.
“I know, that’s really out there,” Jennings said of the holograms. “That would be a stretch, but it would be fantastic if we could pull it off because it would be such an amazing tourist attraction.”
Commissioner Connor Donovan said he supported the idea as long as art committee members remember to “respect the history of the area.”
Commissioner Jacob Karr said he fully supported the historic mural and other large murals downtown, but he was not in favor of the recycled art sculpture. He suggested providing scholarships to students through an art competitions.
“The winners would win the scholarship that they could use for school,” he said, adding it would get the students’ artwork out in the public and give them a “foot in the door” to becoming a professional artist.
Mayor Chris Alahouzos praised Jennings and the rest of the committee for all their hard work, and he said he “liked the fact that we’re are going to be using holograms and new technology. I think it brings us to another level.”
The committee’s nearly $172,000 budget for 2020 was, the mayor said, “very aggressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing them completed.”
When asked after the City Commission meeting how important public art is to a community, Alahouzos replied: “We’re spending quite a bit of money on public art, but I believe it will enhance the beauty and highlight the culture of the community.”