Imagine a series of sculptures at every major intersection along U.S. 41 surrounding Downtown Sarasota. No, not a single statue like the infamous Unconditional Surrender but a stream of public artworks defining the visual identity, standing in full display along the waterfront corridor that circles the heart of the community.
That vision came a step closer to realization when Sarasota City Commissioners offered their own blessing to new landscaping codes which encourage the erection of works of art in seven planned roundabout medians along the Tamiami Trail. "We have had a love affair with roundabouts on so many levels," said City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell. "Now we will be decorating them. It's just a wonderful thing we are at this point right now." The use of the roundabouts as practical podiums is a concept embraced now by elected officials, leaders within Sarasota's art community and transportation activists. The Public Art Committee in Sarasota voted unanimously last week in favor of the landscaping plan, and representatives from U.S.41Momentum, a group lobbying for the roundabout plan, spoke in favor of the plan as well. Rod Warner, a member of US41Momentum and of the citizen advisory committee for the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the sculptures would become an iconic part of the Sarasota skyline. But he acknowledged there is a still a ways to go before the statues stand. "The city doesn't have the money," he said, "so the next step is finding sources." He said in most communities with similar programs, the idea is partially funded by private donations from foundations and private enterprise. In Duluth, Georgia, a similar plan was implemented with no public funding. Arts activist Virginia Hoffman said if the plan does come together, it will be a premiere display of public art in part because Sarasota provides such a rich venue. "I can't think of one city in the eastern United States that has this sort of opportunity and has taken a project like this under its belt to put art on a state highway that runs through a most valuable and precious Bayfront vista," she said. The first roundabout planned in downtown Sarasota will begin construction at U.S. 41 and 14th Street. Another six will be phased in over the next several years. Hoffman figured iconic works would cost between $500,000 and $600,000 per intersection.
Original article published August 20, 2013, by SRQDaily.