Local News

Downtown outdoor sculptures draw praise, criticism

— An “anatomically correct” sculpture of a male figure, fashioned out of bent and cut steel rods, has upset some people who feel Circle Park in downtown Sebring, where the art work is on display, is not the right place for it.

New York City artist Jack Howard-Potter’s, “Winged Glory,” which appears to be a rendition of a male angel, is one of six sculptures that will be on display in the downtown area until January of next year.

Downtown business owner Vicki Jarvis, with Frames & Images, said Circle Park is frequented by kids from day cares and area schools, and the piece should have been put somewhere else.

“I’ve had several people tell me, ‘What do I tell my 5-year-old who asks, Mommy! What’s that?’” said Jarvis, adding she understands that it is art and art is interpretative.

“I think we need some culture in Highlands County,” she said. “It (the piece) is not decent for downtown Sebring.”

St. Vincent de Paul thrift store volunteer Edna Arehart said she feels the same way.

Some people like the art work, she said, but the “majority” of people who have spoken with her about it oppose it.

“Art is art. The body is art but we have to cover up in public,” she said. “A small town doesn’t need that.”

Howard-Potter describes his work as figurative steel statutes that depict the “surface anatomy of human muscles.”

“Each piece of metal is formed and bent by hand and then welded into place to create a cage depicting the surface anatomy of human muscles,” the artist explains in a plaque by his piece.

The steel statue is one of six outdoor pieces that will be on exhibit in Sebring as part of the 14th annual Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition hosted by the Polk Museum of Art.

The cities of Lakeland and Winter Haven are also participating in the program, which gives art enthusiasts the opportunity to travel to the three towns and view the more than 50 pieces on display.

Some of the artists have a following and fans come from out of town to see their work, said Casey Wohl, who does marketing for the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency, which is sponsoring the exhibit, and was one of four people who helped to pick the sculptures.

Wohl said she had not heard any complaints.

“I’ve heard great things,” she said.

She said when she, CRA Executive Director Robin Hinote and two CRA board members went to the museum in June, they were shown a slide show of the pieces and asked to pick their six selections along with one alternate. If an artist had multiple pieces, the cities were asked to pick one so the work could be distributed among the three places.

She said the whole CRA board and the Sebring City Council saw the slide show the selection group saw and approved the pieces chosen.

“The statue of David is one of the most famous pieces of art in the world,” she reasoned of the Michelangelo masterpiece in Florence, Italy. “People go thousands of miles to see it. “

She encouraged those “troubled” by the art work to educate themselves more about the artist.

CRA board chairwoman Kelly Cosgrave said their intention was not to offend anyone but create a “buzz” in downtown Sebring and give people a chance to appreciate culture. Cosgrave has not heard any negative comments, she said.

Some merchants like the exhibit.

Brandi Gonzalez, of Cake Wanted Bakery, said “the angel one is very nice.”

Kim Dennis, of Advanced Tech Computers, described the sculptures as “really cool,” saying they beautify the downtown area.

She said she’s not sure they are drawing more people into downtown and noticed them by chance herself while driving by.

A group of five waiting for the Sebring Public Library to open Wednesday morning had not seen or heard of the exhibit.

Wohl said they will be printing brochures of all the sculptures once the CRA receives the information from the Polk Museum of Art. The CRA has budgeted $8,000 for the program, which includes the rental and the insurance.

The media did reports when the sculptures were installed, she said, and the CRA mentioned it on its Facebook page.

Another downtown businesswoman Lora Todd feels the exhibit is a plus and has seen people stop by the sculptures and read the plaques.

“It’s nice to see that Sebring is taking an interest in culture,” she said.

Where’s the art?

“The Three Graces” made of steel, coated iron and paint.

Location: Centennial Park. Artist: Hanna Jubran – Grimesland, N.C.

“Slices of Heaven” made of concrete combined with limestone

Location: Highlands Art League. Artist -- Craig Gray – Key West.

“Bealtine” made of steel

Location: Highlands Art League/ Cultural Center. Artist --Aisling Millar – Greenville, N.C.

“Winged Glory” made of galvanized, powder-coated steel

Location: Circle Part. Artist --Jack Howard-Potter – New York, N.Y.

“Father and Son” made of painted steel.

Location: Near Rotary Park. Artist --Adam Walls – Hope Mills, N.C.

“Iron Horses” made of recycled metal

Location: Centennial Park. Artist -- Karyn Adamek – Lutz