Like other Central Florida cities, Oviedo plans to dress up town with public art

Known for its old Florida homes, chickens roaming the streets and the snazzy new Oviedo on the Park town center, Oviedo is now planning to dress up the city with artwork.

In the coming weeks, city officials are expected to establish a seven-member public arts board that will make recommendations regarding works of art to display at city facilities and in public areas. The board also will establish rules and guidelines on the display of public art such as paintings, murals and sculptures.

“This is all part of the evolution of Oviedo from being a great city to an exceptional city,” Mayor Dominic Persampiere said. “Public art is so important to a community. We have so many blank canvases throughout the city. And public art can add a little flavor, a little more value, to our community.”

Oviedo is poised to become the latest Central Florida municipality to establish a public arts program, following the lead of cities that include Orlando, Winter Park, Casselberry, Sanford, Mount Dora and Eustis.

Plans call for setting up a public arts fund to help Oviedo pay for acquiring and displaying pieces. The city will set aside 1 percent of money designated for capital improvement projects at parks and recreational facilities toward that fund, up to $50,000 a year. The city also will apply for grant money. The public arts ordinance is scheduled to go before Oviedo City Council members Aug. 7.

Council member Megan Sladek said public art will help brighten up the city’s roundabout intersections, historic downtown and areas around Oviedo on the Park at Center Lake Lane.

Public art can also stir passions. Orlando’s most visible piece is the Tower of Light by artist Ed Carpenter in front of Orlando City Hall, at South Orange Avenue and South Street, installed in 1992 for $460,000. Critics have long disparaged the 63-foot sculpture of tempered glass plates on a stainless steel frame as a waste of money, saying it resembles asparagus.

Under a system that Oviedo also plans to adopt, Orlando’s public art advisory board puts its stamp of approval on public art and makes recommendations on purchases for the city’s permanent collection. In May, the board recommended that two paintings memorializing the Pulse tragedy be accepted into the City Hall collection.

Winter Park — known for its large spring and fall arts festivals — set up its public arts and advisory board in 2002. One of the city’s most visible public arts projects is the sculpture “Tree Whisperers” near the city’s train station and Central Park.

Sanford, with its growing art scene, set up its public art commission a little more than two years ago. The panel was asked to establish regulations for displaying art in public places after a number of large-scale art murals popped up on the sides of downtown buildings.

Downtown is also where Eustis has showcased several artworks, including a large steel heron in the fountain at Ferran Park on the eastern shore of Lake Eustis.

Cuthbert Terro Nelson, 58, a native of Ghana who lives in Eustis, notices the heron sculpture when he walks by the lake every day.

“It brings prestige to it [the park] and also tells us about the wildlife,” he said. “You see it, and then you see the birds on the lake.”

Public art “speaks of a community’s commitment toward art and culture,” said Richard Colvin, executive director of the Lake Eustis Museum of Art. “Look at the Greek and Roman statues. We still have those hundreds of years later. The art lives on.”

Jennifer Webb, an Oviedo resident, architect and member of the city’s public arts committee, said public art is not just about sculptures, paintings or murals. It can tie into the performing arts or other events, such as the popular Taste of Oviedo, held every spring.

“We want the entire city to be able to take part in art expression, whether it’s through performances or artwork,” Webb said. “We’re trying to keep things as open as possible.”

Jerry Fallstrom of the Sentinel staff contributed to this story. mcomas@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5718