‘Jumping Fish’ chosen for Palm/Cocoanut roundabout

Vice Mayor Liz Alpert the only city commissioner to vote against that selection

Jumping Fish was proposed by Jeffrey Laramore. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Jumping Fish, it is.

It took a little more than 30 minutes of discussion on Dec. 4, but four of the five Sarasota city commissioners sided with the 99.9% of people had who voted on the city’s social media platforms for that choice out of three finalists for the sculpture at the city’s planned roundabout at the intersection of North Palm and Cocoanut avenues.

Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown noted the statistic as the commissioners debated the artworks during their regular meeting.

Although the city’s Public Art Committee’s members opted for Striding Liberty, city commissioners quickly made it clear they did not concur with that selection.

“I don’t think we should put [that] anywhere,” Vice Mayor Liz Alpert told her colleagues.

Jumping Fish “is the best of the three,” she added, though she voted against putting it in the roundabout at Palm and Cocoanut. Instead, she concurred with Public Art Committee members who felt it should be on, or closer to, the bayfront, as Chair Norman Schimmel had noted.

“We all loved Jumping Fish,” Schimmel explained of the committee members.

That left the third finalist, Concurrent, as her choice for the roundabout, Alpert said.

“I like Jumping Fish a lot,” Commissioner Hagen Brody added.

Having attended most of the Public Art Committee’s meeting during which the vote was taken, Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch pointed out, “I think the overwhelming feeling was for the Jumping Fish, but not at that [roundabout] location, which I didn’t really understand, nor do I agree with.”

A 2.2-inch clay model of Striding Liberty shows facets of the proposed design by Michael Curtis. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Schimmel told the board members that the committee members began with 140 applications for the $150,000 commission for art in the Palm/Cocoanut roundabout. They whittled the number to 10 and then six before settling on the three finalists, he continued.

“The first thing we look at is artistic value,” he noted, because Sarasota “is the cultural arts capital of Florida.”

Second, he said, the members consider the appropriateness of the submissions for the intended space. Third: “We look at safety. We’re dealing with roundabouts here,” he continued, and the city has “the second-oldest population in the state of Florida, as drivers and as residents.”

The roundabout is on a hill, he pointed out, and the sculpture in its center will be in close proximity to the Butterfly Lady at Florida Studio Theatre and a sculpture in front of the Art Ovation Hotel next to the Palm Avenue parking garage. “You may have a little bit of problem with distraction.”

Brody suggested that if the commission elected not to go with Jumping Fish for the Palm/Cocoanut roundabout, then it consider some of the other sculpture proposals that the committee received. “I’m just not a fan of the other … two.”

Commissioner Willie Shaw agreed.

In response to a question from Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie, City Attorney Robert Fournier explained that the commission could direct the Public Art Committee to begin a second review of the applications and then recommend other finalists.

Schimmel also suggested that the board could forgo a sculpture in that particular roundabout.

David Smith, the city’s chief planner and a liaison to the Public Art Committee, noted that the reason the city has been advertising for submissions for each roundabout is that the City Commission in 2013 directed staff to do so. Nonetheless, he said, “You’re not required to put art in the roundabout.”

Yet, city Planning Director Steven Cover told the board he felt it would be a mistake not to install a sculpture in the Palm/Cocoanut roundabout. “I think it just kind of fulfills the whole area.”

Another issue that arose during the Dec. 4 discussion was the fact that Floridays Development Co., the developer of the Art Ovation Hotel, opted for a different sculpture to install in front of its new building just as the Public Art Committee was trying to decide on its recommendation to the City Commission.

Smith explained that Floridays notified city staff that it had encountered a problem with its first choice, so it had made the change.

The new hotel sculpture, Schimmel pointed out, will stand on a base in a pool, and it will have LED lighting.

Joanne McCobb, a member of the Public Art Committee, added that the hotel sculpture will be kinetic. “It sways in the wind.”

Ahearn-Koch said her understanding is that it also will “make a little noise,” similar to the sound produced by bamboo swaying in the wind. “I think it’s a really interesting, strong sculpture to be there.”

McCobb, who was the only member of the public to address the board on the roundabout art during the Dec. 4 meeting, talked of her disapproval of Striding Liberty. She recommended Concurrent, saying she felt it would be more in balance with the Butterfly Lady and the hotel sculpture than Jumping Fish would be.

McCobb stressed that she was speaking just as an artist, not as a member of the committee.

A graphic explains details of the proposed materials and assembly of Concurrent by Nancy Hou. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Alpert agreed with McCobb. “Given the second sculpture in front of the hotel, I think [Jumping Fish will] be too busy, and Concurrent is a little more understated.”

Ahearn-Koch finally made the motion to select Jumping Fish. “I find it a beautiful complement to the other sculptures [in that vicinity],” Ahearn-Koch said.

The mayor passed the gavel to second the motion.

The new Art Ovation Hotel stands behind the roundabout at one vantage point. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

“I think [Jumping Fish] would really bring its full brilliance to the bayfront,” Brody responded. However, if his colleagues wanted to go ahead and choose a sculpture from among the three finalists, he said, he would support installing Jumping Fish in the roundabout.

Jumping Fish was proposed by Jeffrey Laramore; Striding Liberty, by Michael Curtis; and Concurrent, by Nancy Hou.