Long-delayed sculptures to be installed in underpass

2012-12-14T00:00:00Z Long-delayed sculptures to be installed in underpassDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 14, 2012 12:00 am  • 

It looks like Tucsonans will be able to admire two nude statues when they drive through the Fourth Avenue underpass after all.

Local artist Melody Peters has agreed to deliver two bronze, lifelike statues, instead of one, to the city for $115,000 after a city employee suggested Peters just make a duplicate of the statue she was already building.

The change won't cost the city an additional dime nor will the deadline be moved.

All that's different is the city will now get the two statues this spring that it was originally promised nine years ago, albeit with the price about 53 percent higher than originally agreed upon.

"I think this is a great solution," Peters said. "I think it will work really well."

In 2003, the city commissioned two bronze statues - one male and one female dancer - for $75,000 from Peters as public art for the underpass renovation.

The original due date for the artwork was September 2006 so it could be installed in time for the opening of the renovated underpass.

But design changes to the underpass resulted in the city pushing back the delivery date by three years and skyrocketing material expenses prompted the artist to ask for an additional $40,000.

As the years passed, the artist received four advance payments totaling about $68,000. The underpass eventually opened, but with no sculptures.

Earlier this year, someone at the city realized the three 10-foot pedestals at the northwest corner of North Fourth Avenue and East Ninth Street were empty. Peters had originally hoped to raise money herself for a third sculpture.

After holding a meeting with the artist and hearing all the difficulties she was experiencing, the city's Transportation Department decided to amend the contract and reduce her obligation to one female statue so something could be salvaged from the contract.

But about two weeks ago, Jennifer Donofrio, the Transportation Department's lead planner and public art manager, was still looking for ways to get two sculptures out of the deal when inspiration struck.

"Understanding that the male was no longer a viable option within the project time frame ... I asked Melody if she would entertain the idea of two females," Donofrio wrote in an email. "She was very excited about the idea and contacted the foundry and it was determined that she could afford to cast the two females within her existing budget."

Donofrio said Peters is currently working with the foundry. Next week, molds of the arms and head will be made, followed by the remaining body parts. The molds will be cast in bronze beginning in January, Donofrio said, and the work should be completed by the April 30 deadline.

About the delay

Mary Ellen Wooten, Tucson Pima Arts Council's public art program manager, said it was sort of a case of tunnel vision.

"We just had the mind-set up until last April she was going to be doing a male and female," Wooten said. "I really don't think anybody thought of it during the design process. Melody (Peters, the artist) had always proposed a male and a female ... and Melody designed the two pedestals to hold the varying sculptures."

While the new plan may not be the optimum solution, Wooten said, it is preferable to the alternative.

"It may not be the perfect outcome, but it is much more satisfying than just receiving one," Wooten said. "I think everybody is a lot happier with this solution."

Exactly why the city authorized a change in deliverables without a change in price and other issues with this project are currently under review by the city manager's office.

Peters said she would still like to create a third statue for the other pedestal as she had promised if someone will step forward to pay for the materials and foundry costs.

Jennifer Donofrio, Transportation Department public art manager, said the city and TPAC are considering placing temporary donated work on the pedestal since the city has no money to for new work.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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