Coral Gables

Petition to move flower sculpture fails, but the issue hasn’t withered away

The petition to have residents vote on whether to move two much-debated sculptures in Coral Gables has failed, after a resident group was unable to get the necessary signatures.

The group circulated a petition seeking support for a public vote on removing the two Alice Aycock sculptures at the traffic circles on Segovia Street at Biltmore Way and Coral Way.

The petitioners gathered more than 1,500 signatures, but needed 20 percent of the city’s registered voters, or more than 6,000, to have a referendum placed on the April ballot. Despite that, the group now has the support of Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick, who is sponsoring a resolution to have the commission vote to place the question on the ballot.

“I’m giving the community a chance to voice their opinion on what they’d like to see with the statues,” Slesnick said. “I don’t see why they’d be afraid to put it on the ballot.”

Opponents of the sculptures, two flower-like metal and aluminum sculptures inspired by the passionflower, have said they are misplaced and a distraction at the two busy intersections near City Hall and downtown Coral Gables. Aycock has consistently said — most recently at a talk at the Coral Gables Museum during Art Basel — that the pieces were never meant to be offensive but were intended to create a conversation.

“I want you to think not just about the enclosed universe of the museum or of art but of the world,” Aycock said at the talk. “That’s why I make art, I make art to put something out there that wasn’t there before as a kind of gift.”

The debate on the pieces began not long after they were installed in July 2016. Residents sent hundreds of emails to city leaders criticizing the sculptures and questioning the selection process.

Slesnick’s item will likely be on the Jan. 24 meeting agenda. The majority of the commission has expressed support for keeping the sculptures on Segovia in previous discussions, and Aycock has said she does not plan to move the artwork.

“I just like things to be out in the open and for everybody that lives here to make a decision,” Slesnick said.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3