That’s the sound the 20-foot tall steel sculpture named Big Bleu Birdnanna with a kinetic beak and eye piece would make, artist Patz Fowle said along with her husband and artist, Mike.
It is also the sound of progress in the arts, she said.
The local, well-known artistic duo designed and will be soon constructing the giant powder coated, steel sculpture in downtown as the city’s push for public art that began last year gets underway. (Image of sculpture fabrication pictured below.)
“Your eye lands on sculpture and it’s on public art and it brings you back again and again, and I think that’s going to bring people to Florence, even more than they do now,” Fowle said. “And then with the museum and you got the cultural arts corridor and got the Performing Arts Center, and it’s all blam, blamity blam.”
The sculpture, which Fowle describes as if “Alexander Calder gets put in a blender with Pee Wee Herman’s brain and all the people that go along with him and a little Dr. Seuss and a whole lot of us,” will sit in the green space next to the Waters building on South Dargan Street.
Ray Reich, downtown development manager of the city of Florence, said location is the challenge for public art downtown.
“The biggest challenge has been where we looked at locations, and certainly wall art has lot of opportunity and we’re only limited by funds for stuff on open walls, but in terms of actual physical pieces, the problem has been the game keeps changing in terms of development projects coming about,” Reich said. “We can’t put a piece of art there or building there or development there, and so it’s a good problem to have. So as we move forward some property is going private, and we’re talking about art on there with the property owners.”
Another spot that will become the city’s newest gallery space is the southwest part of the wall in the James Allen Plaza where Lancaster-based sculptor Bob Doster will hang a 6-foot circular stainless steel piece of the city of Florence logo. The area will also be home to three, 3-foot disks designed by local students featuring the Carolina wren, the swallowtail butterfly and marsh tacky horses as well as 8-foot tall palmetto tree and crescent moon closer toward where the courtyard meets Victor’s Bistro.
“This project lended itself to student involvement. When at all possible I like to get community involvement in it,” Doster said. “It’s a piece of Florence. I like to do that whenever possible. The kids will come up with some nice ideas, and I’ll work with them to refine it.”
Students from Briggs Elementary, Southside Middle School and Wilson High School provided their versions of the state symbols that is expected to go up next Wednesday.
“My feeling is I hope it brightens up the wall and it gets them thinking about how things can be,” Doster said, who has public art throughout the state. “When you start adding sculptural elements to downtown, it livens up the whole downtown. People see this and want to go around and see it, and it just adds to ambiance for downtown and that’s what I hope people get out of it.”
The projects, which total just under $30,000, are funded in part from Rediscover Downtown Florence membership dollars and part of the Sunday alcohol sale permits, Reich said.
“What we hope is between Sunday alcohol money and the membership money, if we continue to do well in future, we’re it hoping that we’ll have $35,000 to $40,000 every year to acquire public art,” Reich said. “It can take so many different forms, only limited by imagination and funds involved.”
Fowle said Florence is ready for contemporary art in the heart of its historic district.
“You want to walk up to it and come around a corner and see it, and you want to see other people seeing it for the first time, freaking out for the first time,” she said. “Florence is so ready, we are so ready, they’re ready or they wouldn’t have said yes.”