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A new roost for a steel chicken?

The new owner wants the "exploding chicken" to fly the coop in downtown Tampa. But does anyone want it?

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published November 18, 2005

TAMPA - The so-called exploding chicken in downtown Tampa may soon be kicked from its coop.

The untitled steel sculpture has adorned the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive since 1989. Now its owner wants it gone.

"We own it," said Michael Lerner, vice president of America's Capital Partners, which owns the office building it stands next to. "We can do what we want with it. We'd like to find a home for it."

Like maybe a city park.

The company bought the building, art included, for $35.5-million in January. Six months later, Lerner offered to donate the sculpture to the city.

City officials hesitated because moving the artwork could cost about $30,000, said Robin Nigh, who manages Tampa's public arts program. But she's trying to find a place for it.

She asked Lee Hoffman, who's directing the city's Riverwalk project, if it might find a home there. Hoffman politely declined.

She asked Tampa International Airport executive director Louis Miller if the piece might dress up the airport's new parking garage.

His public art committee will consider it, Miller said, but he cautioned that most of the airport's art relates to aviation.

As opposed to, say, aviaries.

The sculpture is installed beside a structure with its own derisive nickname - the "beer can building" for its cylindrical shape. The "exploding chicken" moniker was popularized by Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto.

Nigh, however, calls it a "great piece of sculpture" by a renowned artist, George Sugarman.

"It's challenging and engaging and that's the absolute most you can ask from any work of art," she said.

George Sugarman explored the theme of art bursting from small spaces.

"It really does do what the artist originally intended it to do," Nigh said.

Lerner isn't too keen on the artist's intent.

"Its scale is inappropriate for where it's located," he said. "It's too big."

A few downtown regulars offered their thoughts on the sculpture Thursday.

"I kinda like it. It breaks up the sidewalk," said Thomas Curtin, who works in the Mercantile Bank across the street. "But I could live without it."

The cube-shaped buildings next to the sculpture could wind up as the new home of the Tampa Museum of Art. If so, maybe the chicken belongs, Curtin said.

Co-workers Jose Padre and David Reese, engineers in a downtown building, said the sculpture should stay.

"It's been there a long time," Reese said. "It's part of downtown."

Times staff writer Steve Huettel contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at 813 226-3401 or jzink@sptimes.com

[Last modified November 18, 2005, 01:27:15]


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