Fort Pierce artists present ideas for Rio roundabout and Port Salerno Gateway projects

STUART – The Art in Public Places Advisory Committee pondered the proposals of two local artists before voting unanimously Jan. 27 to request the Corning Glass Mobile Unit make several small pieces for those and other future Martin County public art pieces during its Feb. 7 ArtsFest exhibition.

The Committee also voted unanimously to get input from both the Rio and Port Salerno Neighborhood Action Committees on the respective proposals by Fort Pierce artists Ken Sandlin and Walt Posten for both the Rio roundabout and the Manatee Gateway section of the Manatee Pocket Walk in Port Salerno.

Community Development Office Manager Susan Kores told the Committee, whose members also serve as the Martin County Community Redevelopment Agency, that she and officials representing the Arts Foundation of Martin County had asked five local artists to provide ideas and suggestions for metal and glass sculptures at both locations.

“Two of them are here today, and they were two that took us up on our offer of providing some designs for the Manatee Gateway and for the Rio roundabout,” she said. “They came back to us with some drawings and ideas, [which were] really creative and a lot of fun.”

Ms. Kores then introduced Mr. Sandlin to the Committee while showing them examples of his other work and an artist rendering of the jellyfish sculpture he proposed for the Rio roundabout.

“He is a Certified Master Welder, but I think the most important thing to us is what he also does, which is pretty incredible sculptures,” she added. “I have a couple of things to show you of his work, so you’ll get an idea of the type of things he does. We asked Ken to provide us a design for Rio or for Manatee or for both, and he provided us with the jellyfish that you see in your packet.”

Committee Member Cindy Hall then asked if his proposed sculpture of three jellyfish would be illuminated.

“I think it is going to have LED lights that come down the tentacles of it,” Ms. Kores responded.

Mr. Sandlin then came to the podium to provide further clarification.

“I was going to use blue LED lights on each tentacle, all the way down to highlight it, and we want to keep the lights on 24/7,” he said. “Anytime you pass by, it’s lit up and looking beautiful: Lights coming up from the base of it going up into each one of the glass tops, and it’s glowing from the light. It would just make that roundabout glow.”

Committee Chairwoman Catherine Winters then posed several questions to the artist about the sculpture design and its durability in occasional windy conditions.

“Are the tentacles flowing or are they rigid?” she asked.

“They’re going to be rigid, just for the purpose of the wind and the flow,” Mr. Sandlin replied. “But with the lights on them the way I’m going to do it, it’s going to look like it’s flowing.”

“Are there any concerns with hurricane-force winds or that type of thing with this?” Ms. Winters continued.

“If I could get Corning to blow the glass where I could get a good connection on the bottom of them, it shouldn’t be a problem at all,” the artist insisted. “You have to keep in mind, at the turn of the century they were using glass on light poles all over the country, and they had to stay up there during hurricanes, and they did. I’m pretty sure that this will work and really beautify that area. The stainless steel is going to be polished to where it reflects light in such a way that it’s going to really glow.”

Chairwoman Winters then expressed her approval of the sculpture topic.

“It’s definitely unique,” she said. “I mean it’s not another dolphin, so that’s good.”

Ms. Kores then introduced Mr. Posten, a welding instructor at the Fort Pierce campus of Indian River State College.

“He is also a Certified Welder and a Certified Welding Inspector, and that is what he teaches,” she said. “He likes to use recycled metal art. I think it’s really interesting that the folks in the community who do this type of work are welders, as well as artists.”

Ms. Kores then proceeded to detail several of Mr. Posten’s proposed projects, which range from pelicans on a pier piling to a scuba diver, a pelican on a buoy, tropical fish on a coral reef, an octopus and his own take on jellyfish.

Committee Member Cindy Hall then questioned the second artist on how well he thought his designs might stand up to a hurricane.

“Is there something we need to worry about?” she asked.

Mr. Posten told her he’d already spoken with several engineers on how best to craft his proposed sculptures for those kinds of conditions and even decided to eliminate pelicans on the Pocket Walk with outstretched wings for fear they might actually take off.

“I kind of scaled everything down or made it less attractive to wind,” he explained. “So, a lot of the designs are made of washers, which are going to allow some wind to pass through so they don’t catch as much wind.”

Only one member of the public addressed the Committee during the discussion, Rio activist Julie Priest, who asked Mr. Posten if he had considered lighting up his pelican/buoy idea for the Rio roundabout.

“Is there a possibility to put lighting on that?” she asked. “We actually have Beacon 21 in our river, and so it sheds light every night.”

The artist admitted he’d contemplated the idea but hadn’t had time to investigate prior to the Committee meeting.

“I called a couple of salvage yards to try and find a used buoy,” Mr. Posten answered. “A lot already come with solar lighting already on them. If I could utilize that, that would take a lot of the work out of trying to wire and light it. If not, it is also possible to put a solar panel on it and hide it into the design itself.”

Committee Member Mark Palazzo then suggested Mr. Posten check with the U.S. Coast Guard station in Fort Pierce.

“It seems to me I saw a buoy or two in the yard up there,” he said. “They may have something they salvaged or pulled out of the water somewhere that they’re getting rid of.”

The IRSC welding professor thanked Mr. Palazzo but emphasized that he could create a buoy from recycled materials if need be, and it might even be more interesting to the motoring public and pedestrians utilizing the Rio roundabout.

“The buoy itself, if it’s not actually a piece that’s restored, would be all stainless steel that would look as real as a real buoy,” he insisted. “A lot of the other pieces, or even the pelicans in these, would all be single stainless washers glued together. When you see all the work of welding these little washers together, people are more attracted to that.”

Ms. Kores said the plan to utilize the Corning Glass Mobile Unit to create some of the smaller glass pieces for the planned art projects was really an effort to kill two birds with one stone.

“We’ve supported the Mobile Glass Unit to be here for $12,000,” she said, referring to the cost for its participation in ArtsFest. “They’re going to be doing demonstrations that full day, so instead of them just making vases or ashtrays, they would then make things we would utilize in our potential public art.”

Committee Member Saadia Tsaftarides expressed concern about having the Corning artists – whose traveling exhibit is a service of New York State’s Corning Museum of Glass – create pieces for a project that the NACs had yet to consider.

“The only hesitancy I have is that they’re going to start with the cart before the horse,” she said. “I would have preferred that the NAC looked at it, and they [glass pieces] were made for that specific [project].”

Ms. Kores insisted the intention was not to slight the NACs but rather an issue of the ArtsFest schedule.

“You’re right that it is the cart coming before the horse, but sometimes that’s just what happens because opportunities come your way,” she said, referring to the Corning Glass presentation. “We’re not making design decisions today. We’re just moving it ahead so that we can take advantage of that opportunity, which who knows, could turn into something better in the future.”

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