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Art Park's code of conduct: Please touch the paintings

Examine the art. Rest your library books on it. Just please don't dismiss it as another boring bench.

By MEGAN SCOTT
Published October 11, 2003

SAFETY HARBOR - You can sit on this art.

You can eat on this art.

You can even sleep on this art.

This art is in a park.

A new artistic showcase called the Art Park is opening in downtown Safety Harbor, featuring three benches and two picnic tables painted by an artist. It's on the north side of the Safety Harbor Public Library near the large Elf Tree, an oak estimated to be more than 200 years old. On the other side of the library is another large oak that park officials say is even older.

"I do think it's a beautiful site," said Rebecca Jadidian, chairwoman of the Public Art committee. "It's very bright and colorful, something that would attract children and adults."

The park will officially open Oct. 20 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the equipment was installed this week. The artist, Silas Beach, spent Friday touching up the paint and making sure everything was just right.

"It's one of a kind," Beach said. "It's nice to see what you do for people. I mostly create for other people rather than myself."

He has been doing this kind of artwork for more than 20 years. He started by painting a mural in a bathroom at Frenchy's first restaurant in Clearwater Beach. He also painted the stools, tables and murals at the restaurant.

Beach applied that same concept to the picnic tables and benches, which bear colorful images of birds, plants and hibiscuses.

Painting on picnic tables and benches is different from painting on canvas, Beach said. Although there may only be a few pieces of equipment, it felt like painting 30 different sections. He painted the pieces separately using blocks in which the separation of the wood would occur to make sure the art flowed. Then the park officials assembled it this week.

Jay Goulde, executive director of the Outdoor Arts Foundation, was inspired after reading a book by Keith Haring, an artist who did an art park in New York.

He approached the mayor of Safety Harbor about having something similar in the city. Mayor Pam Corbino suggested replacing the green benches next to the library with the art park.

"One of the things that bothers me is when I go into a city park and I see generic-looking benches and tables,' Goulde said. "I had this idea that if we could get the cities to allocate funds they would spend on normal park equipment to have an artist do the same equipment, that we could really start to make a difference in the Tampa Bay area."

The commission awarded $5,000 this year to fund the project, and Beach began painting the pieces in August.

When Goulde formed the Outdoor Arts Foundation in 2002, his vision was to have an organization that would facilitate privately funded community arts projects throughout the Tampa Bay area. The organization has sponsored several murals and painted garbage receptacles and fire hydrants. But he believes this is the area's first art park.

One of the concerns about the park was the longevity and durability of the benches and tables, Goulde said. Beach will use a commercial-grade sealant to protect the paint. He hopes park users will respect the artwork.

On Oct. 20, the city will also recognize the completion of the brick street renovations on Second Avenue N. Twenty-four streets have been identified as needing repair; three of those have been completed to date.

Both the Art Park and the brick street renovations enhance the small-town charm and quality of life for Safety Harbor residents, said Julie Yaeger, the city's public information officer.

With the Art Park, people will be able to enjoy the uniqueness and the artistic flair of Beach's designs, she said.

"We have something that not only promotes the art but also helps preserve the historical grounds with oak trees," Yaeger said. "The park has the aesthetics for people to enjoy on a recreation basis."

If you go

The city of Safety Harbor will celebrate the opening of the Art Park and the Second Avenue brick street renovations at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 20, Second Avenue N near Main Street. For more information, call Julie Yaeger at (727) 724-1555.

[Last modified October 11, 2003, 02:08:56]


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