By Laura Kepner
Art Boxes Illuminate
the Northern Climes of Pinellas
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Along Tarpon Springs’ Dodecanese Boulevard, known for the Sponge Docks, a unique outdoor art gallery has been on display for about a year, day and night.
Fifteen art boxes illuminating original works by local artists, highlight inspirational images. They’re beautiful in the daytime – and when the sky turns dark, the art is lit up with solar-powered technology, adding another way to experience the work.
This highly trafficked downtown boulevard was procured by the City of Tarpon Springs through the Tarpon Springs Public Art Committee (PAC) after Public Art Committee chair Joan Jennings had an idea to showcase public art in a very accessible way – display it right where people walk.
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“Basically, we put out a call to artists and they submitted digital images,” Jennings says. “The public art committee ranked them and we put the top pieces in Art Boxes.”
For this, the project’s second phase, the PAC selected 30 works after receiving over 130 submissions. Each artist retains their work, even while it is on display. Art is shared as a high-resolution scan and turned into a decal. The decals are each affixed to a vinyl panel which is mounted on one side of an Art Box, so each box features two different images.
“It does justice to the artwork,” says Jennings. “When we want to change the images all we have to do is replace the decal with another one and put the vinyl back in the box. It is economical for the community to keep changing it up.”
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The Tarpon Springs Public Art Committee has been active since 2007. One of their most recent acquisitions is a whimsical pelican sculpture by St. Pete artist Michael Elwell at 735 Dodecanese Boulevard.
A few of the PAC’s many accomplishments include two of Monica Swartley’s murals celebrating Tarpon Springs’ love of both baseball and softball, located on the Sisler Field building. Tarpon’s public art is showcased throughout the city, including at the community center, library, along the waterfront and even in its dog park. Visitors on a bicycle can park at one of 11 Art Bike Racks located throughout the city. The Art Boxes are just another unique way of celebrating the diversely talented residents of Pinellas County and beyond.
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“We are thinking of expanding [the Art Boxes],” says Jennings. “We may put a couple in Sisler Field. George Sisler was a well-known baseball player who was here around the Babe Ruth era for spring training. We want to put some historic information and maybe children’s art. We were looking at some smaller sizes to put around Tarpon. They need quite a bit of room.”
Another PAC member, David Salo, created a QR code, which will be added to the poles displaying the Art Boxes so people can read more about the art and the artists on the Tarpon Arts website. For now, visitors can download a brochure that includes each artist’s contact information and a corresponding image for reference at TarponArts.org/Public-Art.
The art or photographs currently displayed are works by the following artists – Maria Bouris, Sylvia Durell, Shari Gaines, Martha Hickey, Teresita Hightower, Steven Kenny, Bess King, Paul Linder, Denise Cormier Mahoney, Kathryn Marks, Peggy McCardle, Rose Metz, Mark Mitchell, Margaret Modjeski, Patty Renz, Ari Robinson, Mary Silvia, Ljuba Simovic, David Sonderman, Betty Stallard, Tom Wilke, Jana Withers and Sherida Wysocki.
“We’ve gotten very positive comments,” Jennings says. “The public art committee is trying to take a two-pronged approach, using local and student artists and also getting some high-end projects. We’re doing quite a bit of original stuff, here in the northern climes of Pinellas.”
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You can see the featured Art Box works and artists here