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Public art initiative hopes to draw attention to Village

BRADENTON — Sign, signs, everywhere there’s signs.

But apparently at the Village of the Arts, the signs aren’t doing enough.

Artists have a week left to submit ideas to the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority’s first public art initiative, which hopes to make the Village more prominent to passersby.

So far, the DDA has received only a few submissions for the $50,000 commissioned project that will place public art at the entrance to the Village. But Ann Wykell, the DDA’s public art coordinator, expects more will trickle in before the March 15 deadline.

“Artists are notorious for getting their applications in at the last minute,” she said.

The best art in her stack will make a difference, though.

Over the years, the 42-acre Village has struggled with drawing attention to its physical locale. Its 40 art galleries, shops and restaurants sit in the middle of a downtown residential neighborhood, making it hard for would-be patrons to spot.

New signs were installed about two years ago, after the Village was awarded $10,000 from the Knight Foundation, said Christine Turner, of the Village’s Baobab Tree Gallery & Studio. About eight to 12 yellow and black signs were placed in and around the Village. Have they helped?

“It’s hard to tell,” Turner said.

She believes public art will do the trick. Art that’s “unique” and “iconic,” she said.

“Public art sends messages to people as they drive by and walk by,” Wykell said. “When they see art, it sends them a visual message about what’s happening in this community. I think it will draw more attention not just to the Village but to the revitalization and the creativity that’s really bubbling up throughout Bradenton, and especially downtown Bradenton.”

The DDA is specifically seeking outdoor sculptures that can withstand the Florida heat and storms. Artists also have to consider the limited physical space where the art work will be placed — on the corner of Ninth Avenue West and 12th Street West. The DDA may consider placing additional art at the corner of 12th Avenue West and Ninth Street West.

Beyond those requirements and constraints, artists are free to create public art in any style. It can be a single piece or a series of work.

Finalists will be selected by a public art panel March 22. The artwork will be installed at some point between the end of the year and sometime next year, Wykell said.

The national call to artists, advertised on various art Web sites such as the New England Foundation of the Arts and Theartslist.com, has solicited work from as far as Washington state, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Village artist Carrie Price Whaley, of Inner Visions, said installing public art in the Village will enhance visitors’ experience, considering the attention other public art within the Village has already generated — such as the blue and white cow in front of the Still Life in G Gallery.

“People love it,” she said. “They love to take pictures of it. It’s very recognizable. I think people really like outdoor art and public art when it’s very integrated with the space and makes sense.”

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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