Last year Gulfport undertook its largest public art project in recent memory – 10 art pieces in Clymer Park. The finished pieces included some tremendous work by local artists Susanne Vernon and Tom Pitzen as well as two steampunk-esque Frank Strunk III pieces that delight passers-by. Owen Pach and Jonathan Schork have pieces in the park as well.
One problem, though: The project curator did not make provisions for signs so people would know who created the art. Margarete Tober, a lifetime Gulfport resident, president of a Gulfport beatification nonprofit and well-known community activist, decided the failing of the curator shouldn't be the failing of the community. She approached the city about plaques and received the city manager's blessing to raise funds and install signs for the art.
This Saturday afternoon, Tober's vision becomes a reality — and it's one less thing the city has to buy — as the signs get installed alongside the 10 pieces of art. The ribbon cutting and reception (co-hosted by the city of Gulfport and the Gulfport Neighbors, although funding for the signs came from the community and neither the city or the Gulfport Neighbors funds) will start at 4 p.m., marking the grand opening of the Clymer Park Sculpture Garden.
"The Clymer Park Sculpture Garden is one of the largest municipal outdoor installations of public art in Pinellas County," Tober says. Ten works, created by Tom Pitzen, Susanne Vernon, Frank Strunk III, Jonathan Schork, and Owen Pach, line a curved pathway through a city park.
"The community was extremely generous," Tober said. "I wanted to do it for the future. Not just for today but for the future. It's a beautiful outdoor museum that most smaller cities don't have."
Christine Brown, the councilwoman who represents Gulfport's downtown, praises Tober.
"Ms. Tober has made a positive impact on our community in many ways. This is another example of her passion," Brown said. "The art pieces offer a snapshot of who we are as a community at this moment in time. Adding the signs will make this timeless and meaningful to future generations."
Gulfport's first phase of the art walk and sculpture garden was commissioned in 2014. While Vernon's mosaic piece used china donated from the community, Schork's musical instruments invite continual creation as people play them.
Artists will attend the grand opening. A reception will follow the dedication.