Coral Gables

Residents may seek public vote to remove flower-like sculptures

One of the two sculptures designed by Alice Aycock is at the traffic circle on Segovia Street and Biltmore Way in Coral Gables.
One of the two sculptures designed by Alice Aycock is at the traffic circle on Segovia Street and Biltmore Way in Coral Gables. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

A group of Coral Gables residents who oppose two pieces of public art in Coral Gables will continue calling for the sculptures to be removed and may try to get the issue put before voters.

A few dozen residents gathered Saturday at The Palace of Coral Gables to discuss the Alice Aycock passion flower sculptures that have been installed at traffic circles on Segovia Street at Biltmore Way and Coral Way. Most of those in attendance echoed the message of a petition started by resident Olga Ramudo that the flower-like metal and aluminum sculptures don’t fit where they’ve been placed.

“We are not here judging the art. What we are judging here is where it is and how the money has been spent,” Ramudo said.

She and other residents plan to gather more signatures for the petition before making a formal appeal to the City Commission. They also intend to meet with the city attorney to discuss requirements for a referendum on moving the sculptures.

The referendum could not get on the November ballot, which is already being printed, and the city attorney, in a legal opinion, noted that it would be difficult for the sculptures to be moved quickly. Whether the decision to move them is made by the City Commission or through a successful referendum, the city’s contract with Aycock requires the city to wait six months before moving it unless Aycock agrees otherwise.

I’m trying to keep an open mind but on this point, I really don’t like the artwork.

Coral Gables Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick

Commissioners Jeannett Slesnick and Patricia Keon, also present at the meeting, heard a variety of complaints from the residents about the decision to install the pieces, the cost and what some residents felt was a lack of public involvement in the process.

“I’m trying to keep an open mind but on this point, I really don’t like the artwork,” Slesnick said.

The pieces were unanimously approved in November 2014, cost $1 million and are part of the city’s Neighborhood Renaissance program, a $27-million bond program to fund various projects in the city. The project also received $40,000 in grant funding from the National Endowment of the Arts and $35,000 of in-kind horticultural services from Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden.

Many residents at the meeting said they would have rather seen that portion of the money go toward other projects that the bond program is funding like infrastructure improvements.

“I think a lot more of our community should have been notified before it was decided how the money should be spent,” Brooke Rogers said.

Keon said she would not likely support moving the sculptures, while Slesnick has criticized the process for placing them there. Keon said that even if some residents don’t like the pair of sculptures, they aren’t offensive.

“I don’t know if I would purchase that piece of art for my home but that’s not what’s at issue here,” Keon said. “This is a piece of public art that belongs to the 51,000 people that live in this city.”

This is a piece of public art that belongs to the 51,000 people that live in this city.

Coral Gables Commissioner Patricia Keon

The meeting also included about three residents who are part of a less vocal group: fans of Aycock’s artworks. Keon said she’s also received positive feedback on the sculptures.

Aycock’s proposal was chosen out of a field of more than 180 applicants after being judged by a panel of five experts in public art, including Silvia Karman Cubina, the director and chief curator of the Bass Museum of Art, and Carol Damian, former director of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University.

The world-renowned artist has had pieces of public art featured in Broward County and at places like the San Francisco Public Library, Dulles International Airport in Washington and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

Some critics suggest that the pieces would be better suited for a place like Fairchild or on the campus of a nearby university like the University of Miami or Florida International University.

Ultimately many of the attendees at Saturday’s meeting agreed that criticism of the piece might have been avoided with better communication during the selection process.

“I think there’s a tremendous opportunity going forward for the city to push out information to the community,” resident Jason Rogers said.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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