Choosing Patriot Plaza's art with a professional advisory group

Choosing Patriot Plaza's art with a professional advisory group

Posted on April 26, 2013 by Ann Wykell

Editor's Note: Ann Wykell is the art consultant on Patriot Plaza, the ceremonial amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery. Ann will be guest blogging about the process to incorporate commissioned art at Patriot Plaza.

It seems obvious that art, like food and fashion, is a matter of taste.  We don’t all have to like the same thing – and we don’t.  This is not a problem if art is being chosen for one’s home, or even a personal space like an office. But what about art for a public space that belongs to everyone?  This is often called Public Art or Art in Public Spaces. How should art be selected for this kind of setting if we know that it is impossible to make everyone equally happy?

The solution used most frequently in the United States is to convene a small group of people to help select artists and designs.  Each person on the committee brings his or her own taste and way of looking at art to the group. By listening to what others see, everyone gets a deeper, more thoughtful opinion and the group can find a consensus about which art to select. The wisdom of the group is powerful.

An Art Advisory Group for Patriot Plaza

We often say someone who is very perceptive and able to evaluate the quality of art has “a good eye”. The Patterson Foundation has been fortunate to have a dedicated group of wise eyes in its Art Advisory Group (AAG).

They are:

- Kenny Irby, Director of Photojournalism at Poynter in St. Petersburg

- Robin Nigh, Manager of Arts for the City of Tampa and director of the public art program

- Mark Ormond, professor at the Ringling College of Art and Design.

Also assisting in the early stages of the selection process was John Wetenhall, former Executive Director of the Carnegie Museums.

A collaborative process

The AAG began their work with an in-depth discussion about what kind of art could be installed within the design of Patriot Plaza. Initially there were seven possible locations for art. They met multiple times for half-day meetings to review the applications of more than 60 artists and then met for several all-day meetings where finalists presented their proposals.

During this time, there were changes to the site plan and some ideas for art had to be discarded while others were added.   For example, at the beginning there were two very long, tall walls that were great locations for art. Later the walls were eliminated. The AAG devised new concepts for the more open space.

The process worked beautifully. The group process road seemed twisted with detours and long delays occasionally, but it has taken us exactly where we hoped to be – to a group of artists whose art is unified around the themes of telling the stories of life in the military and that fits seamlessly  into the Patriot Plaza space. Every piece of art may not appeal to every visitor, but with the help of the AAG members, there will be something special for everyone.

For additional questions about the Patriot Plaza art process, Ann Wykell may be reached at

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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