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    Mural to drape Tampa building

    The artwork by artist Theo Wujcik will cover downtown's Franklin Exchange Building.

    By LENNIE BENNETT
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 6, 2002


    TAMPA -- Drivers, it's steady on the steering wheel next week if you happen to be near downtown Tampa and notice a startling image in your peripheral vision.

    A 40- by 90-foot mural by artist Theo Wujcik will be hung by Dec. 14 on the Franklin Exchange Building. It will be visible from Interstate 275 and marks a colorful departure from the brick, concrete and glass of most downtown facades.

    The mural, technically a vinyl building wrap, is the second such project organized by Jay Goulde for the Outdoor Arts Foundation, a not-for-profit organization he founded earlier this year to gather private funds for large outdoor art projects.

    The first mural hangs on the Park Tower Building on Ashley Drive. It is a collaboration between artist Carl Cowden and students at Tampa Preparatory School, who painted a scene from nature.

    The new mural will have more edge.

    Wujcik is a local artist with a national reputation. His work often sells in the five figure-range and is in the permanent collections of museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The hanging is a reproduction of a collage Wujcik constructed titled Invocation of the Muse. In a large field of white space, two columns of votive candles are bisected by Wujcik's signature "cross-hatches" of fragmented images, here, Christmas ornaments and cartoonish parts of a man's head.

    It is expected to remain hanging on the Franklin Exchange, at 655 Franklin St., for a year, Goulde said.

    Most outdoor art is categorized as "public art" because it is commissioned by a government entity and paid for by taxes or special funds. Goulde said the $9,000 cost of Wujcik's mural is underwritten by three donors -- the Wilson Co., Outdoor Arts board member Kim Patterson and the Maureen and Doug Cohn Philanthropic Fund of the TOP Jewish Foundation.

    The money will cover enlarging Wujcik's smaller image onto large panels of vinyl mesh, the same material used for the building wraps at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

    It's cheaper than painting directly onto the building and can be removed for relocation or, in this case, probably to sell in sections at a fundraising auction. The original collage also may be sold, Goulde said.

    Goulde also is organizing a campaign to commission artists to paint Dumpsters in the Tampa Bay area. The next mural project, scheduled for March, is a work by pop artist Peter Max on the Mease Countryside Hospital in Clearwater. He also plans more murals for downtown Tampa buildings, he said.

    "I'd like all the downtown buildings to be like great big easels and this to be one big gallery," Goulde said.

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