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Tampa to highlight overlooked Agam sculpture

The patterns on the panels of Visual Welcome, which is at a low-profile spot between Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens, appear to shift when viewed while in motion.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

The patterns on the panels of Visual Welcome, which is at a low-profile spot between Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens, appear to shift when viewed while in motion.

TAMPA — The 10-foot-tall sculpture is something like a family keepsake stashed out back by the trash cans for nearly 20 years.

But by the end of this year, it will be cleaned up and moved to a place of pride closer to the front door.

The City Council voted Thursday to approve a $38,515 upgrade for the Yaacov Agam sculpture Visual Welcome.

Agam is an Israeli artist with a global reputation as the father of "kinetic art" — art that appears to move.

But for years, Visual Welcome has been all but hidden on a stub of Twiggs Street between Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the ramp into an underground parking garage. Its closest neighbors are a row of crape myrtles with hot pink blossoms on one side and 20 large, Army green trash bins on another.

Installed in 1995, Visual Welcome consists of nine vertical panels set 30 inches apart in a row. The panels, made of aircraft aluminum, are painted on both sides in more than 120 colors.

One side features checkerboard and color block patterns. The other has color blocks and circles. As the viewer passes by, the patterns shift.

"With an Agam, when you look at it, if you move 2 feet one way or 2 feet another way, the whole thing can completely change," said Dennis Carhart, the fabricator who originally installed the piece and who will restore it. "That's what's so cool about it. It moves."

The city is hiring Carhart's firm, Art Creations & Restorations of West Palm Beach, to refurbish the piece.

Carhart said he expects to take down the panels late this month or in early August. At his shop, he will clean off the rust, repair the chips, repaint and buff the panels to a new gloss.

In November or December, he will reinstall the sculpture in the median of Bayshore Boulevard, just south of the Academy of the Holy Names.

It's a good spot, said City Council member Mary Mulhern, who said the Agam piece has never received the prominence it deserves.

The sculpture is meant to be viewed as people pass by, she said, so Bayshore is ideal because of its constant stream of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

"Bayshore really has become our premier place to show public art," she said.

With the makeover and move, Visual Welcome should have a brighter future than another piece of ballyhooed Agam art that City Hall eventually regretted acquiring.

In 1991, Tampa Palms developer Ken Good gave the city a 6-ton steel fountain called Shamayim to go in front of the Tampa Convention Center.

Agam designed Shamayim to spew water and fire, but over the years, it cost City Hall nearly $250,000 to maintain. In 2000, rather than repaint it, the city took it down and sent it back to Good.

It's not unheard of for Agam art owners to not realize what they have, Carhart said. He's currently restoring a 30-foot-tall piece owned by a medical facility in Alabama.

The business was thinking of getting rid of the Agam piece — until an art appraiser said it's worth $13 million — and much more if restored, Carhart said.

In the future, he hopes Tampa holds its Agam sculpture in higher regard.

"I hope they take better care of it this time," Carhart said. "I don't think they realize what they have."

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

Council highlights

• New Perry Harvey Sr. Park and Bro Bowl move get green light

• City to refund FEMA storm aid

Details, page .

Other council approvals

• Use $100,000 in federal homeland security funds to install four security cameras at the city dam on the Hillsborough River.

• Reimburse $561,655 in unauthorized storm relief to the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Tropical Storm Frances in 2004. Tampa received $6.3 million in storm relief, but state and federal officials demanded the reimbursement after a lengthy review found Tampa received double payments from FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration. The city has appealed part of the finding.

• Approve the $6.9 million construction of a new Perry Harvey Sr. Park, which includes demolishing and rebuilding the historic Bro Bowl skateboard park in a new location nearby. Construction is expected to start in mid- to late-September and take about 12 months. The park will reopen with a replica of the Bro Bowl inside a larger skateboarding facility, plus statues, public art, a festival lawn, and other features designed to honor the history of the black business district that once thrived along Central Avenue. In October, the Bro Bowl became the first skate bowl in the United States to be named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Other council approvals

• Use $100,000 in federal homeland security funds to install four security cameras at the city dam on the Hillsborough River.

• Reimburse $561,655 in unauthorized storm relief to the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Tropical Storm Frances in 2004. Tampa received $6.3 million in storm relief, but state and federal officials demanded the reimbursement after a lengthy review found Tampa received double payments from FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration. The city has appealed part of the finding.

• Approve the $6.9 million construction of a new Perry Harvey Sr. Park, which includes demolishing and rebuilding the historic Bro Bowl skateboard park in a new location nearby. Construction is expected to start in mid- to late-September and take about 12 months. The park will reopen with a replica of the Bro Bowl inside a larger skateboarding facility, plus statues, public art, a festival lawn, and other features designed to honor the history of the black business district that once thrived along Central Avenue. In October, the Bro Bowl became the first skate bowl in the United States to be named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Tampa to highlight overlooked Agam sculpture 07/17/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 11:16pm]
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