Sculptures in Sarasota Bayfront Park and Marina
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
A Self-Guided Tour
The City of Sarasota established the Public Art Committee in 1989 to enhance Sarasota’s reputation as an art destination by acquiring and displaying works of art around the city. Sarasota Bayfront Park and Marina has 6 sculptures on display. Here is a self-guided walking tour of these varied and beautiful works of art. For your convenience, I have included walking directions designated with “Follow Me” but you may visit the works of art in any order. The total distance traveled on this tour is 1.0 mile round trip. If you wish to do a shorter tour, you can visit the 4 sculptures along the 0.5 mile loop in Bayfront Park.
I began the walk at the entrance to Bayfront Park. I walked in a clockwise direction, following the Island Park Fitness Walk to the left.
On the left you will pass O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill where you may wish to have a meal and a ‘Cocktail in Paradise’ with your toes in the sand and enjoy the lovely view of Sarasota Bay. There are also public restrooms next to O’Leary’s. Take the path that veers right just past the restrooms and the Bioswale to arrive at the first sculpture, “Olympic Wannabees”, located next to the children’s playground.
#1: “Olympic Wannabees”
Description: Five cartwheeling children
Sculptor: Glenna Goodacre
Date: February 2003
Additional Info: In November 2000, “Olympic Wannabees” was exhibited at the grand opening of the contemporary art gallery, Galleria Silecchia, located in downtown Sarasota. While on exhibition, many gallery visitors expressed interest in making a permanent home for the sculpture in Sarasota. In 2001, a campaign began to raise funds for the procurement of the highly expressive and admired sculpture. “Olympic Wannabees” was originally installed at Five Points Park across from the Selby Library. In 2007, the sculpture was relocated to the Bayfront Park next to the playground. I think this spot at Bayfront Park is the perfect home for the piece of art the exudes the carefree joy of childhood.
On the other side of the children’s playground, you will find “A Family Place”. Currently, Steigerwaldt-Jockey Children’s Fountain is closed until further notice. Beside the playground, there are several picnic tables in the shade of tall trees. This would be a great place for a family picnic or a child’s birthday party.
#2: “A Family Place”
Steigerwaldt-Jockey Children’s Fountain
Description: A children’s splash park with 30 water sprinklers and sculptures of Florida native animals including a panther, a sea turtle, lizards, and manatees.
Designer: Danielle Glaysher-Cobian and Papo Cobian
Medium: Concrete and stone
Date: April 1997
Donated: The Donna Wolf-Steigerwaldt Foundation and Jockey International
Additional Info: The blue Florida lizards adorning the steps leading down to the fountain are made of concrete and weigh almost 500 pounds. When I first saw them, I immediately thought of Antoni Gaudi’s famous Salamander in Parc Güell in Barcelona. The beautiful mosaic salamander stands guard along the stairs at the park entrance in a similar fashion as the lizards in this splash park. It may have been unintentional but after I learned that Danielle Glaysher-Cobian grew up in Madrid, I’m hypothesizing that she may have been influenced by Gaudi’s famous salamander when designing the lizards for the Children’s Fountain.
Retrace the path to the intersection at the restrooms, Bioswale, and O’Leary’s and then turn right to continue in a clockwise direction. Along the bay starting at O’Leary’s dock, look over the edge to find Sarasota’s first “Living Seawall”. From the money received from the claim from the BP Deep Horizon oil spill catastrophe, the City of Sarasota hired Reef Ball Foundation to build and install 35 marine-friendly modules along the exiting seawall, which helps reduce erosion and acts as an artificial reef to attract fish and marine animals. For more info on the Living Seawall, click here.
Continue on your tour. There is a bicycle rack after O’Leary’s. You will find a white painted, decorated bike permanently parked here. The creator of this decorative bike and other decorated bikes all over downtown Sarasota is Dr. Nik, artist William Pearson.
While leisurely strolling to the next sculpture, be sure to gaze out over the bay. I love watching the sailboats languidly bobbing in the bay. I have often seen dolphins and manatees swim by so look for a fin or a whiskered snout breaking the surface of the water.
Look to your right and find the black steel circle that reminds me of the “at symbol” in the middle of the green lawn. You have arrived at “Omphalos”.
Sculptor: Richard Beckman (1957-2004)
Additional Info: Omphalos means the center or hub of something. Also it is the rounded stone representing the navel of the earth in ancient Greek mythology. If you look at Google Maps of the park, it appears that “Omphalos” is at the center of the park. Be sure to walk around this sculpture because it changes ‘shape’ and to observe the views through the ‘circle’. Mr. Beckman knew he needed to work with his hands and studied art in college, which began his life-long obsession with art. The artist was intrigued by basic shapes like circles and triangles, which played a major role in his art including this sculpture. Mr. Beckman was an Associate Professor of Art at USF College of Arts from 1991 to 2004. He was an excellent teacher and well loved by his students.
Return to the walking loop and continue in the clockwise direction. At the point of the park, you will find the next sculpture:
#4: “The Dolphin Fountain”
Description: Dolphins frolicking in the water plumes
Designer: Steve Dickey
Additional Info: Mr. Dickey is a resident of Tampa and has created many bronze busts of Hillsborough’s eminent citizens that line the Historical Monument Trail along Tampa’s Riverwalk. Mr. Dickey was a student studying painting at the Ringling College of Art and Design. He took an elective course in sculpting which turned out to be his true calling. The Dolphin Fountain always makes me smile. It exudes happiness.
As you continue to follow the trail, you will walk by the marina and be very close to a variety of sea going vessels. I really enjoy reading the names of the boats. I think about what I would name a boat if I had one. What about you? There are a few large banyan trees along this part of the path. Take a moment to observe the root system which grow from branches downward to the ground.
You will come full circle and arrive at the entrance of the park. Walk toward the parking lot and turn left. Walk a short distance, and on the left, you will see the 25 foot tall sculpture of the ‘kissing couple’ known as “Unconditional Surrender”.
#5: “Unconditional Surrender”
Description: A statue of a sailor and nurse locked in a passionate embrace upon the announcement of the Victory over Japan (V-J Day) and the end of World War II.
Sculptor: Seward Johnson
Date: 2005, 2009
Additional Info: The first in the series of this sculpture was created by Seward Johnson using a computer generated model based on the famous 1945 photograph, V-J Day in Times Square, by Alfred Eisenstaedt to build the 25-foot tall statue. The first statue was made from styrofoam and it was exhibited in Sarasota in 2005. This statue did a tour of the US being installed temporarily in San Diego and New York City. An aluminum copy of the statue was installed at the Sarasota Bayfront in 2009 and in 2012 an automobile crashed in to it causing serious damage. In 2020, the statue must be removed due to road construction and it’s future fate is undecided at this time. There are copies of this statue in San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Civitavecchia (Italy), Caen (France), and Bastogne (Belgium).
The Bayfront Park and touring the art works is a great activity to do with visiting friends and family.
If you visit this statue with your sweetheart be sure to mimic the pose for a perfect keepsake photo. Last Halloween, my husband and I attended the Gator Club’s Annual Halloween Block Party and we dressed up as a sailor and a nurse. Many revelers asked us to pose like Unconditional Surrender for a quick photo. That was a lot of fun!
When facing the Unconditional Surrender, turn to your right and walk down the sidewalk toward Marina Jack's. As you approach the road leading to Marina Jack’s, you will see the next sculpture on the left. It looks like a spire or obelisk.
#6: “Ominous Ikon Series 69”
Description: Modern spire
Designer: Dennis Kowal
Medium: Aerospace aluminum, acrylic, and stainless steel
Additional Info: When Mr. Kowal was a young boy attending a movie, a newsreel showed the first atomic bomb test which terrified him and made an indelible impression on his young psyche. As an adult, he used his artistic skills to express his deep emotions and created a series of sculptures called Ominous Ikons, including this one in the series. Mr. Kowal has accumulated a long list of accolades and recognition during his illustrious career including “Who’s Who in American Art”. Even though Mr. Kowal was born and raised in Chicago, he resides in Sarasota with his wife, Jill Hoffman Kowal, who is a painter. One of the their daughters, Denise Kowal, is the creator of the International Chalk Festival in which pavement artists from around the world create works of art on the road surface. These chalk paintings are stunningly beautiful masterpieces and the 3D paintings are pure genius and mind blowing.
You have visited all six of the major works of art in Sarasota Bayfront Park and Marina. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Now you can walk to O’Leary’s, Marina Jack’s, or one of the coffee shops, bars, or restaurants in downtown Sarasota for some refreshment and to review your photos from the tour. Don't forget to share your photos and tag Seas The Day Florida (#seasthedayflorida).
Address: 5 Bayfront Park, Sarasota, Florida 34236
Phone: (941) 263-6386
Hours: 7:00 am to 11:00 pm
Amenities at Bayfront Park:
Free parking for 3 hours (back-in parking is prohibited)
Restaurant and Bar (O’Leary’s and Marina Jack’s )
Paved Walking Loop (0.5 miles)
Large Grass Lawns
Very Scenic Waterviews
Potential Wildlife Viewing
Canoe & Kayak Launch