LARGO — City leaders think Central Park is the heart of Largo, and now they want everyone else to know it, too.
They plan to do it with a $50,000 project to install a new heart-shaped interactive sculpture near the park’s entrance, which Joan Byrne, recreation, parks and arts director, calls the gateway to the city’s cultural arts district.
“We think that the heart really is kind of the symbol of the park,” Byrne said during a recent City Commission work session. “It is the heart of the community, the center of the community.”
The installation will be created by Clayton Swartz, who makes all of his aluminum sculptures from start to finish in his studio in Pinellas Park.
Swartz, who recently completed a sculpture for Bonita Springs City Hall, said the piece will be about 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide — and isn’t something that will just be looked at.
“I developed the sculpture to be an interactive piece, so it would draw people in,” he said. “Instead of just having people view it from afar, you could walk through it, you could have your pictures taken, you could lay down a blanket and sit under it. And I think that’s a perfect piece for a beautiful park setting like Largo has.”
Byrne said she hopes the heart will have the same effect as other notable pieces of public art, like the LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia or the Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “the Bean,” in Chicago.
Byrne said they will add a walkway, lighting, benches and landscaping to make it attractive. Some lettering, such as “the heart of the community,” might also be incorporated.
She said the piece will take several months to fabricate, so they are hoping to debut it in April.
“Our plan would be to unveil it at the 25th birthday celebration for Largo Central Park,” she said. “I think that’s a very apropos time to really unveil this.”
The artwork itself will cost $30,000. The remaining $20,000 will go toward permitting, site work and landscaping.
The project’s budget also will include $5,000 for the demolition of the existing art piece at the entrance to the parking lot between the Performing Arts Center and the Historic Largo Feed Store.
Byrne said that piece, which was installed in 1996, is in disrepair and needs to be removed.
“If you just drive by on Largo Central Park, you’ll think, ‘Why are they taking that down? It doesn’t look too bad,’” she said. “But if you look at it, you’ll notice we have half a ballet slipper, we have a part of an artist palette. It is quite literally falling apart.”
After it is removed, Byrne said the area will simply be landscaped.
“I thought that was supposed to be abstract art,” Commissioner Curtis Holmes said.
“Well, it certainly looks abstract now,” Byrne responded. “It’s getting more abstract by the day.”