Downtown Sarasota Kicks Off Homeless Inspired Art Project

Title Contest: Help us name the first of hopefully many more homeless themed

public art installations in downtown Sarasota. The attached photo depicts the still unfinished interactive display that includes a circular paver and cement “sundial” shaped base with a seemingly lifeless possibly even comatose homeless person sprawled on top of the horological (time telling) sun dial. Here are some preliminary titles suggested by Sarasota residents and local art enthusiasts:

1. Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is? Umm 1PM??

2. 1 o’Clock, 2 o’Clock, 3 o’Clock Rock

3. Sarasota Squid Games: Dispossessed Squatter Edition

4. The Time Machine: He’s Got All the Time in the World…Um Not Really

Introduction: Public art is expensive. The administrative hurdles and cost to cities and urban municipalities involved in bringing to fruition dynamic new art into green spaces, parks, and common areas downtown is challenging to say the least. “In place” public art requires not only engaging regional artists and jury selecting large sculptures and wind/weather-resistant creative installations but also coordinating a rigorous multidisciplinary approval process/design team that includes multiple P&R full-time employees as well as outside consultants, architects, project managers, and civil engineers experienced in public works that involves permanent “in place” art. Navigating through the complicated administrative procedures and city/county/state government building codes and regulations in a still recovering Covid pandemic economy, ie. supply chain delayed materials, increased labor costs, required liability and disability insurance as well as future projected maintenance and cleaning expenses has made local government sponsored art projects and public works prohibitively expensive and quite often beyond the budget allowances of even affluent cities like Sarasota.

Unfortunately private funding for such worthy public art downtown have also suffered over the last few years and are further impacted as a result of current events and market instability. Wealthy private donors, local patrons of the arts, visiting oil and gas billionaires and normally cash flush Russian oligarchs living in or around Sarasota are being forced to sell or hide their discretionary assets, ie. mega yachts, private jets, European soccer teams, illegally purchased or stolen antiquities and museum quality art collections due to US government pressure, congressional investigations, economic sanctions and frozen bank accounts related to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, a more creative, pragmatic and cost-effective approach to public art is needed in Sarasota. Just like in the burgeoning field of fine dining/culinary art which trends towards using local ingredients and food sources as well as homegrown or creative presentations of regional cuisine, ie. farm to table gourmet restaurants, outdoor farmers markets, etc., public art projects in downtown areas like Sarasota need to also think about relying on local commodities that are fresh, plentiful, and more affordable.

Let’s be honest. Sarasota has a seemingly boundless supply of fresh, employable and/or completely unemployable homeless people willing and able to be used as stationary (or barely moving) art, sculptural art pieces, interactive architectural components and authentic public art figures in situ. Good art should be something people can relate to (or at least imagine if their health, life savings and/or stock portfolio goes to hell in a hand-basket). By extension why not consider good art, especially downtown public art to be displays which are “true to form” and literally comprised of living breathing human beings …even if the art objects breath is pretty damn bad, even if they are passed out or huddled together in various “off the tourist radar” places (like near Salvation Army and Planned Parenthood), even if they are found sleeping early morning in front of posh clothing boutiques and newly renovated store fronts on Main Street, engaged in loud nonsensical meth fueled conversations and altercations with themselves or others while trekking across already noisy Fruitville Road or even while eating, drinking, changing their socks and (on occasion) urinating in the increasingly sparse landscaping outside the downtown Public library right across from Starbucks.

The point is that homeless people are still real human beings. Furthermore, as “embodied” public art the homeless very likely could be procured to participate or literally become outdoor art. Consider the pros involved. They have no long annoying commute to contend with and no automobiles to drive and park (adding to traffic congestion and major headaches trying to figure out how to use the so called user friendly automated parking meters). In addition, homeless people as homeless art objects probably could be paid exclusively in Starbucks gift cards, cigarettes, beer and lottery tickets. Best of all homeless art and artists typically dont demand special celebrity “hey I’m a famous avant garde artiste” diva treatment like required on-site swedish masseuses, pilates instructors, charcuterie platters and 24/7 champagne flights. Most important …the homeless being homeless dont give a damn about state or county planning rules and regulations, public works building and construction restrictions, federal OSHA laws, planning department inspectors or inspections, liability and disability insurance or come to think of it…. basically really anything.

Like the Dude in The Big Lebowsky the homeless population of Sarasota mostly just wants to “abide” and get by. Maybe that’s what they can teach the rest of us take for granted spoiled homeowners and over-entitled cell phone and iPad addicted arty farty show-offs and art auction imposters. Hell, it’s just an idea even if a few existing laws, ordinances and labor practices might need to be cleverly altered first… probably by passing some teeny tiny font voter referendum held during an obscure midterm election, etc.

The important thing is that a vibrant growing creative community like Sarasota known across the US for its artistic vision and cultural arts as well as its social conscience regarding the “homeless problem” (not to mention it’s absolutely ridiculous real estate prices making it literally impossible to buy anything except a falling apart crack house or rat-infested hovel for under 2 million bucks) needs and deserves just such a uniquely “human” art initiative. At the very least let’s think about it….

About captaincliff

Psychologist by day, insomniac Pirate blogger by night, this Child of God likes to share sarcastic social commentary as well as topsy-turvy observations about life, love and the pursuit of zaniness, a functional form of insanity in an increasingly insane world
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