1 NOT ART AND NOT SO ORIGINAL
2 ARTISTS FLEX FACEBOOK MUSCLES
3 EXPENDABLE OR ECONOMIC ENGINE?
4 SARASOTA’S UNCONDITIONAL TOWN SQUARE
5 REDEVELOPMENT IN ROSEMARY
6 ETHICS OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
7 NO FREEBIES FROM ARTISTS
8 GRAFFITI BOMBS IN OVERTOWN
9 POLITICAL CLOUT FOR THE VISUAL ARTS
10 THE SUPERFICIAL TO THE SUBLIME
11 JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, EDC TEMPLATE
12 RESPONSIBILITY OF PUBLIC ART
13 CAN PUBLIC ART BE DEPOLITICIZED?
14 SARASOTA’S STADIUM OF CULTURE
Is the Tube Dude Sarasota’s new king of lowbrow? Are these roadside stick figures art? Creator Scott Gerber says, “yes,” but let’s go exploring anyway. Editorialist Tom Lyons, who compared Gerber’s roadside stick figures with “Yellowman” by competitor Sarasota Sign Machine, classified the Tube Dude as an up scale version of products that do seem like art, or something close. “Yellowman” creator Adam Nitterauer, steaming over a cease and desist order received from Gerber, said: “No they are not art. They are sign holders and advertisements.” The litigious treatment so far has not worked on Nitterauer, who still sells “Yellowman” but is mystified by anonymous code enforcement complaints when the Tube Dude serves a similar purpose. Perhaps Gerber’s effort to elevate his stick figures by calling them art is merely intended to sidestep sign ordinances. Are the dues at least original? Enter the “EXCITING – Tube Dude(™)” dancing roadside balloon figures, which have been around for years. Curious if “EXCITING – Tube Dude” could shed some light on the “is it art” question, a company sales rep. said, “Lady if you aren’t going to order a balloon, I don’t got time to talk.” With prodding, he confirmed his figures were not art, but were advertisements. He did not know about Gerber’s Tube Dude, but he does now. Depending on the scope of the balloon Dude’s trademark, Gerber could have a problem. Sarasota’s creative class is also weighing in, especially since the stick figure factory received a $100,000 grant from the county to help with expansion. Facebook chatter from visual artists not keyed into how government works in SarasDepending on the scope of the balloon Dude’s trademark, Gerber could have a problem. Sarasota’s creative class is also weighing in, especially since the stick figure factory received a $100,000 grant from the county to help with expansion. Facebook chatter from visual artists not keyed into how government works in Sarasota are reeling. Most know the Sanborn Studios scenario and see this as another risky venture with an unrealistic plan to parley the money into 44 full time jobs. They do not consider the Tube Dude art. One New York transplant referred to them as gimmicky stick figures intended for promotional purposes, subbing them a fad which too shall pass. There seems slim chance for Gerber to earn his artist’s license with local artists, who are generally aghast at the press attention that somewhat reinforces the “this is art” declaration. But since Gerber did get his thumbs up from the county, my feeling is he’s having 100,000 laughs at our expense.
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Beautiful sculpture can be found throughout Sarasota, and so can fine sculptors. But Virginia Hoffman, an artist who lived in Sarasota from the time she was 11 years old, has been frustrated at times that there isn’t always a connection between the two. A number of years ago, she became very upset when Sarasota City Commissioners were hiring artists from far outside the state to create works of art to station throughout the community She remembers a specific instance when Philadelphia artist Ray King was hired to sculpt a piece to stand outside City Hall. “He did work almost exactly like my work, and I was very unhappy,” she says. The incident inspired her to go directly to Commissioners and ask why a call to artists hadn’t even been issued, and why officials were not interested in seeing a local artist create something instead. She didn’t convince them to rescind the contract with King, but she did end up with a spot on the Public Art Committee for City Hall, a job she has held ever since. That particular slight was personal, she says, but her main focus is on giving local artists a grander position in a community renowned for the arts. That desire is being realized this year with the Intersections program, a sculpture competition of sorts where Florida artists will have work featured on the streets of Sarasota for a year, with one artist seeing his or her work purchased and made a permanent part of the City’s public art collection. Following up on similar efforts around the state, the competition will be the largest such sculpture competition put on by a city in Florida. “I’ve always had the desire to give local artists the first crack at anything,” Hoffman says. “Now that the economy is so bad, local hiring is on everybody’s tongue and has become the popular thing to do.” Of course, Hoffman has also made headlines this year for a fierce opposition against one particular sculpture. When the possibility first arose that Seward Johnson’s Unconditional Surrender, the eye-catchingly kitsch kissing sailor that now adorns the Bayfront, could become a permanent exhibition, Hoffman used her position on the Public Art Committee to launch a full-throated campaign against the piece. Copyright issues and questions about donation procedure have made the statue one of the most complicated of government matters facing City officials, but Hoffman is up front about her chief concern with the statue. It’s an ugly rip-off of a famous picture sitting in one of the best positions of any work of art within the City limits, she says. “There seems to be a growing culture war between those who are accepting of low-brow art and the local arts community that wants a higher aesthetic ideal,” she says. “I think Sarasota has set a world-class cultural standard, and a lot of forces out there are trying to take that away.” She fears the kissing sailor will become the main image visitors associate with Sarasota, rather than many of the more critically exciting pieces scattered around town. Hoffman seems to have lost this fight, though, as a majority of City Commissioners approved a deal to keep the statue in its current location for the next 10 years. But with the Intersections program, Hoffman hopes some of the human-scale pieces that will adorn major corners and public spaces throughout the area will remain in visitors’ minds instead. She expects the artwork will also increase traffic to local shopping districts, creating jobs both for local artists and retailers alike. By Jacob Ogles / Photography by Kathryn Brass