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Stained glass artwork adorns new Largo Community Center

LARGO —When the city's new community center opens in early January, visitors may be impressed by its towering architecture, amenities and green-building credibility.

But one addition to the structure — a part that faced its share of debate when commissioners approved it back in February — will perhaps go down as one of its most memorable features.

The art.

Outside the main entrance and running along the entire wall, then continuing inside the entrance hall is a mosaic unlike any other public installation in the city.

Entitled The Woodlands by artists Bob and Cindy Kessler, of Loveland, Ohio, the mosaic is a blast of shape and color that leaps from the concrete in which it is embedded.

Construction of the art — which took about six months and $90,000 to complete — concluded Monday.

When Cindy Kessler, who designed the project, looked at the wall, she saw something that few other than the architect, Jason Jenson, may have noticed at first glance.

The windows that dot the wall high above the sidewalk are tinted green — a canopy. Strips of concrete that run below each window, the trunks.

"But the trees stand alone in this forest," Kessler said.

So she made her abstract mosaic represent the understory.

"To add a softness to the trees," she said.

That idea won over a selection committee, and encouraged commissioners to okay the project.

Next came the manufacture of the mosaic — composed of thousands shards of multicolored glass, hand-selected for shape and hue.

Bob Kessler, who installed the panels over the weekend, said he and his wife selected colored glass from manufacturers across the country, then smashed them — by hammer, by dropping — to get the best composition of shapes.

The glass was then put into a rock tumbler to smooth the edges.

"We want people to touch it," Bob Kessler said.

Cindy Kessler sorted through the thousands of shards, arranging them like puzzle pieces, until she had the right amount to create a cascade of color.

The pieces were affixed to panels, then trucked nearly 1,000 miles from Ohio to Largo.

Bob Kessler said many buildings constructed recently lack souls, the human touch. When cities like Largo spend money on art, it elevates the building from a mere structure to a thing that reaches out to visitors.

"Artwork humanizes the building environment," he said.

The building is not yet open, but Commissioner Woody Brown swung by Monday and caught a peek.

"It look great from what I saw," Brown said. "It looked cool."

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Stained glass artwork adorns new Largo Community Center 10/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 5:48pm]
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