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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Public art too bright for some on Bayshore; new site sought

TAMPA — After standing in downtown Tampa nearly 20 years, Yaacov Agam’s “Visual Welcome” is crated and on its way to South Florida to be restored.

The statue will return later this year to a new Tampa home. But now, the exact location is uncertain.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn had planned to place the statue on Bayshore Boulevard south of Bay to Bay Boulevard near The Academy of the Holy Names.

Nearby residents object.

“The size, illumination and placement of this artwork will be a distraction from the serenity and beauty of this area,” Bayshore Terrace resident Bree Fulcher wrote to City Councilman Harry Cohen on Tuesday. “The display would severely impact views from the building, especially for units like mine that face the bay.”

Fulcher is part of a letter-writing campaign urging City Hall to find another place for the statue.

Cohen, whose district includes Bayshore, said Wednesday he’s working on it – but the statue will likely stay on Bayshore.

“Bayshore is a long road,” Cohen said. “I’m sure we can find a place to put it that won’t interfere with anyone’s view corridor.”

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the city sought for two years to find a new home for the statue. The Bayshore location, he said, raises the artwork’s visibility.

“Bayshore’s our most scenic boulevard,” Buckhorn said. “I think the exposure the Agam will get will be worth it.”

Art restorer Dennis Carhart supervised the dismantling of the statue Wednesday morning. Carhart built the 10-foot-high set of multicolored panels based on Agam’s designs.

Carhart came to town with a crane and flatbed truck to remove the panels from the spot between Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens where they have stood for years.

One by one, each panel was lifted out of the artwork’s 2-foot-deep concrete base and packed away.

Each panel is a sheet of aircraft aluminum three-quarters of an inch thick painted with a pattern of colorful geometric shapes. Carhart took them back to his West Palm Beach studio to be repainted.

Later this year, Carhart will bring the panels back and install them at their new location — the city’s growing open-air art gallery in the grassy median of Bayshore Boulevard.

Carhart said he favors Bayshore because “Visual Welcome” is made to be seen by viewers in motion. Bayshore draws joggers, cyclists and walkers along with the car traffic.

The Tampa City Council last month approved a $38,515 contract with Carhart to restore and relocate the sculpture. He is restoring another Agam artwork, “Complex Vision,” displayed for in Birmingham, Ala.

Agam, 86, is an Israeli artist known for creating “kinetic” art. His works either move or change as the viewer moves.

Each “Visual Welcome” is covered in a jumble of colored squares, rectangles and curves. From certain angles, the chaotic patterns resolve themselves into a set of concentric circles. But that pattern quickly changes as the viewer shifts position.

Agam donated “Visual Welcome” to Tampa in 1995 after being courted by then-Mayor Sandy Freedman, who collects Agam’s work, and Buckhorn, then her assistant and protege.

“Visual Welcome” is Tampa’s second venture in Agam’s art.

In 1992, Freedman got Tampa Palms developer Ken Good to loan his own Agam statue — a spinning, musical fountain that spouted water and fire — for placement at the entrance to the newly opened Tampa Convention Center.

Mayor Dick Greco returned the sculpture to the Good family when it became too expensive to maintain.

“Visual Welcome” originally stood overlooking the Hillsborough River at the end of Zack Street. It was moved — and largely forgotten — when the Tampa Museum of Art and Curtis Hixon park were built during the administration of Mayor Pam Iorio.

In recent years, the sculpture has shared its location outside the entrance to the Rivergate Tower parking garage with city recycling cans and parked cars.

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