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Clearwater Council mulls art at new rec center
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Photo courtesy of CITY OF CLEARWATER
A proposed art installation project, consisting of window patterns by artist Guy Kemper, for the new Morningside Recreation Center has prompted Clearwater City Council members to rethink city policy on public art installations.
CLEARWATER – City leaders gave considerable discussion to a proposed public art installation at the new Morningside Recreation Center on July 17 during a workshop at City Hall.

The art, which will consist of vibrantly-colored window patterns, was created by artist Guy Kemper and will cost $55,000. The artwork will be displayed in the glass windows of the main entry and fitness center window wall at the main entrance and central atrium of the new recreation center.

The cost of the installation is already included within the Morningside Recreation Center construction budget, according to city parks director Kevin Dunbar.

Last month, council members approved a construction bid from Caladesi Construction Company of Largo for the construction of the Morningside Recreation Center on Harn Boulevard in southeast Clearwater for just over $5.7 million.

The proposed center will consist of 22,000-square-feet and will include a lobby, office, fitness room, gymnasium, storage area, restrooms and a number of multi-purpose rooms.

The overlay artwork will be displayed on glass throughout the facility, but will maintain a translucent aesthetic, Dunbar said.

“It’s not meant to screen,” he said.

While the design and project scope were approved by the project construction team, the public art and design board, the parks and recreation department and the Morningside Neighborhood Home Owners Association, city leaders were not completely on board with the end result.

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos questioned the council’s policy on public art installations in facilities where the public might not be able to visibly see it from the street, such as Fire State No. 45 on Court Street, which houses public art on the interior of the facility.

“Should we look at making some changes with how we do that?” Cretekos asked, arguing that perhaps the art would be better served in more public locations. “Can we put some of that money into art in other parts of the community?”

Dunbar told the mayor that the city has the ability to move the art funds from this particular project into the general art fund, which can be allocated for other projects.

“If we don’t think something’s a good fit, then it goes into the public art and design fund,” Dunbar said. “And then it’s discretionary after that.”

Should the council do that, Cretekos and city leaders agreed that to change the design at this point would completely alter the project moving forward.

City leaders originally looked at the reconstruction of a recreation center at Morningside as early as 1997, when $3.1 million was allocated to the Pennies for Pinellas II project list. However, construction costs rose significantly, and in 2008, city leaders approved the removal of the building that had served as a recreation center.

During the August 2015 meeting of the council, Dunbar asked council members to consider using the balance of the project funds, approximately $2.8 million for the reconstruction of the facility. During that meeting, Dunbar said he expected annual operating costs coming in at $600,000. Annual revenue generated from the facility, according to Dunbar, is expected to be $225,000, with an annual subsidy from the city at a cost of $375,000.

Now, nearly two years later, the city is ready to move forward with the project after a committee comprised of city staff, residents and architects with Wannemacher Jensen Architects, Inc. submitted designs.

Additional funding for the project will include General Fund reserves in the amount of $815,000.

Council members were expected to make a final decision about the installation at its regular meeting on July 20.
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