From scraps, a big dog lands in Clearwater

CLEARWATER

Henry is made of 1,200 pounds of scrap metal. His face and body come from a John Deere hay baler.

He just got plunked down in the median of Cleveland Street, and now he's standing guard over downtown Clearwater like a 10-foot-tall watchdog.

Henry is the latest example of public art in Clearwater. The people who put him there know full well the giant metal canine is going to have his fans and his detractors.

"I hope everyone likes it, except for the 5 percent who take the time to hate it," sculptor Doug Makemson says cheerfully. "If no one hates it, you're not doing it right."

Makemson, a farmer turned junk metal sculptor from a town near Athens, Ga., drove Henry here on a flatbed truck Monday and installed him on Cleveland Street between Fort Harrison and Osceola avenues, or midway between the Capitol Theatre and the downtown Starbucks.

This is part of an ongoing initiative called "Sculpture 360," which rents three sculptures per year and exhibits them in the downtown thoroughfare's median planters.

The $12,000-a-year project, now in its second year, is funded by the Downtown Development Board, which is funded by a special taxing district downtown. A city-appointed panel chooses new artworks annually.

The purpose is to drag art out of the museums and into the street, says Christopher Hubbard, public art specialist for Clearwater. He expects to get a robust mix of praise and complaints about Henry.

"A lot of people don't go to museums and galleries, which can be a little pretentious and where you're supposed to have a certain reaction," Hubbard says. "What we're trying to do with public art is to get people talking."

Henry will no doubt get people talking. At the very least, his creator says, Henry is meant to be accessible. You don't have to know much about art theory to appreciate Henry for what he is.

Makemson says he has always been more likely to win "people's awards" at various shows instead of fawning from art critics.

The sculptor pursues his muse in a barn where he used to house dairy goats and hay. He collects scrap metal and then cuts, welds and hammers it until it's an alligator or a bird or an insect.

Or a dog.

Henry's forelegs are big metal posts that used to prop up a shelter for gas pumps. You can still see lettering on them: No smoking. Turn off engine.

His body is the packing chute for a hay baler.

His hind legs are 100-year-old pulley wheels that would have been powered by a steam engine or water wheel. Leather belts wrapped around the wheels ran machines in a textile mill or factory, the sculptor says.

And why the name Henry?

"It's part of a John Deere hay baler, and my father's name is John Henry," Makemson says. "It seemed like it needed a good solid name, being a big solid dog."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

From scraps, a big dog lands in Clearwater 11/03/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 11:42am]

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