When the call to artists went out this fall, the response was vast.
More than 100 artists from across the country sent in resumes and work samples to the city of Largo, hoping to be hired to create the artwork to adorn the city's planned cultural center.
The commission would be worth $100,000, 1 percent of the center's $10 million budget.
The best of the bunch was presented to city commissioners Tuesday night: Kessler Studios, a mural design firm from Loveland, Ohio.
But like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder. Commissioners' reactions were mixed, and they voted to table the issue until their next meeting on Feb. 16.
According to those on the selection committee that picked the winner of the bid — some of them local artists themselves — the firm's resume and past work embodied not just the physical requirements of the job, but sparked that je ne sais quoi that gives an installation universal appeal.
Or as city parks and recreation director Joan Byrne described what the consensus was on the firm's work: "vibrant, youthful, joyful."
Mayor Patricia Gerard said the renderings presented weren't detailed enough for her to reach a firm conclusion.
Commissioner Gigi Arntzen questioned why the art wasn't coming from a local artist.
The answer, said Byrne: none from Largo submitted bids, and very few came in from Florida.
Commissioners Robert Murray and Curtis Holmes, however, were simply not sold on the idea of adding an expensive installation to the building.
"Art is in the eye of the beholder. I questioned this project from the beginning," Holmes said. "I said from the beginning I'd rather get Highland Rec fixed than do this project at all."
Vice Mayor Woody Brown, however, felt that the art committee's opinion should be all the city needs to proceed.
A cardboard mock-up of the art was presented to commissioners, revealing a design that stretches along the side of the community center for 35 feet, the base moving along the building like a river, and spires of glass reaching up 14 feet like branches of trees.
A second panel would carry along another wall for 18 feet, evoking a similar motif.
Byrne said she would contact the studio to come up with more detailed renderings so commissioners could more deeply deliberate art that would likely be around for as long as the new community center.
Dominick Tao can be reached at (727) 580-2951 or [email protected]