Downtown public modern art on the move


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by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

It had been a part of the Downtown streetscape since 1994, but the modern sculpture that was commissioned for the the 550 Building on Water Street isn’t there any more.

Artist James Rosburg’s creation titled “Harlan” didn’t fit in with the new landscape plan for the building, so it had to go – but where?

Debbie Broder, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA), was contacted by the property owners who were willing to donate the sculpture to the museum. All Broder had to do was come and get it. She said the idea immediately appealed to her because, “We don’t have any outdoor sculpture and that’s part of the collection we’d like to develop. But it came with challenges.”

Dismantling and transporting the huge sculpture would be a major project and since the artwork is made of aluminum and had been exposed to the elements for so long, the paint had faded necessitating a restoration.

“The first step was to ascertain the cost of the project which we determined was in the vicinity of $20,000, so we knew that would be a barrier,” said Broder.

This is where a fortuitous coincidence came into play.

The possible donation of the sculpture was a hot topic of discussion at MOCA that made it all the way to a women’s networking group that held a meeting at the museum. One of the group’s members is married to an auto body shop owner and when she went home and told her husband about the possible donation with strings attached, he volunteered to take on the project.

“We had all the equipment and expertise to make it happen,” said Dave McBroom, owner of Sunbeam Auto Body. “Somebody needed to do it.”

The sculpture was dismantled and trucked to Mandarin. It will eventually be transported to the shop’s facility that is specifically equipped to paint aluminum components.

Broder said McBroom is working with the artist who is overseeing the restoration and McBroom said when the job is finished the sculpture will look just like it did the day it was installed on Water Street and the finish will actually be more durable than the original.

“We’re going to custom-mix the paint so the new finish will match what the artist intended and then we’re going to apply a clearcoat finish similar to what’s used on vehicles,” said McBroom.

He estimated the work will take about six weeks and after that, the sculpture will be ready for its new home.

Where that new home will be is under discussion.

“At this point, I honestly don’t know where it’s going to go,” said Broder. “But it needs to be in a public venue with a lot of traffic that will bring visibility to the museum.”

Paul Crawford, deputy executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, said MOCA will work with the Art in Public Places program of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville to prepare a proposal for the new location of the sculpture. That proposal will be submitted to the JEDC and the City Council for approval.

He also pointed out the park on Main Street between Monroe and Duval streets near MOCA already has lights installed designed to illuminate a piece of outdoor art.