Tuesday, January 16, 2018
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Elephants are coming to showcase Tampa Bay artists

ST. PETERSBURG — Many elephants will be in many rooms for the Republican National Convention and they won't all be delegates.

On Monday, the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee unveiled Herd About Tampa Bay, a partnership with the Outdoor Arts Foundation that will place dozens of fiberglass pachyderms, embellished by area artists, throughout the Tampa Bay region. Most will be clustered in Tampa International Airport and at the convention center in downtown Tampa. A few will appear as early as June, but the majority will be warehoused until August, said OAF director Jay Goulde, unveiled in time for the convention, Aug. 27-30.

"Our job as a committee is to promote the region, and this is a way to show visitors we have great artists here," said, Ken Jones, president and CEO of the host committee.

Each fiberglass elephant will be purchased by a sponsor for $2,000, which includes the artist's fee. They'll measure 4 feet by 4 feet and are similar to past OAF projects with fiberglass turtles and manatees painted by artists and displayed in public venues. Unlike those versions, however, the elephants won't be free-standing. They're designed to hang on interior or exterior walls, which, Goulde said, makes them more affordable because they're easily moved and don't need concrete platforms.

"Having them on a wall also minimizes vandalism," he said.

The actual elephants haven't been made. The "plug" for the fiberglass molds was introduced Monday at Oleson Gallery in downtown St. Petersburg. Owner and artist James Oleson sculpted it from foam over which a layer of fiberglass will be molded, creating a hollow form.

They lend themselves to a lot of creative interpretation, but the designs will be vetted to prevent overt political statements or bias, Goulde said.

Carl Cowden III, a well-known master printer in the area, will make the first one under the sponsorship of Tampa Bay & Company, an economic development organization promoting tourism. That elephant will go on display in June at the company's visitor center in Channelside.

Zoologists may question the details of the elephant, which Oleson crafted with an oversized head and trunk. It appears to be smiling.

"It may not be anatomically correct," Jones said, "But it looks friendly and strong."

Lennie Bennett can be reached at (727) 893-8293 or [email protected]

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