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USF studies Picasso art project again

Nearly 16 years after the University of South Florida abandoned a project to put a Picasso-designed sculpture on campus, school officials are taking a new look at the idea. USF President Francis Borkowski has asked his staff to study commissioning a series of sculptures to decorate the largely unadorned campus. The 1,250-ton Picasso could be the centerpiece, he said.

USF Art Museum Director Margaret Miller said she is checking with art critics to determine whether the sculpture is worth pursuing.

"If it comes back that everyone says it's outstanding, we'll need to look at the overall campus plan and see if it makes sense to do it," Borkowski said.

They'll also have to look at the bottom line.

In 1974, the project was expected to cost $500,000 and was to be handled through private donations.

The price probably has doubled by now, said Joe Busta, USF vice president for development. But USF might be able to get state grants from a new public art program to offset the increased cost.

Discussions on the project began in 1971. Pablo Picasso had been thinking of a series of large sculptures that would be scattered around the world, and he agreed to design a scale model of the sculpture for USF.

All that exists today is a signed photograph of the model from July 1971. It shows an abstract rendering of a woman.

The design was free, but building the sculpture was another story.

After a lengthy fund-raising effort netted only $125,000, school leaders abandoned the project in late 1974.