Florida the rules are different here Chapter VIII or Send out the Clowns?
The City of Sarasota has a controversy right now. It is about clown statues. Yes clown statues. The Southwest Florida city wants to put up 70 clown statues as part of an exhibit and some artists and residents are protesting it.
If you don't know Sarasota Floriada was once the home of the Ringling Brothers Circus. Right now I'm not sure who the clown is in this story, the people who want to put up the statues or the ones protesting it. I'll let you decide by leaving me a comment.
Below is a Miami Herald article. Click here if you want to read a slightly older article on the story. Hat tip- Florida Cracker who like me is riding out Hurricane Wilma.
SARASOTA - With his monklike fringe of carroty hair, red ping-pong ball of a nose and stenciled smiley mouth, Chuck Sidlow looked every bit the jolly fellow. But he was not a happy clown.
Feelings of rejection and dismay have gripped many show folks of late in the storied circus town of Sarasota, which earned its reputation as a big-top hub after becoming the wintertime home for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus 75 years ago.
At the root of Sidlow and his brethren's woes is a small but vocal group of local artists who object to a seemingly innocuous plan. To raise money and celebrate their 25th anniversary, Hospice of Southwest Florida wants to place up to 70 large fiberglass clowns -- painted by artists and sponsored by businesses -- around town. The concept has ample precedent, from Chicago's cows to Miami Beach's flamingos to Washington D.C.'s donkeys and elephants, and beyond. For hospice directors, clowns unquestionably captured Sarasota's spirit and history, and the city commission easily embraced the plan.
ARTISTS ATTACK PLANS
But the dissenting artists say the mass-produced figurines are overly commercial and hackneyed. Sarasota's plan is made worse, they believe, because the figures in question would be clowns, which they say would cheapen a city that bills itself as the ``cultural coast.''
Plus, they noted, there are children and adults who harbor coulrophobia -- a serious fear of clowns.
''The clown phobia thing is huge, I had no idea. There are people who just plum hate the images of clowns,'' said Virginia Hoffman, a sculptor and chair of Sarasota's Public Art Committee. ``I'm concerned about fallout. What if there are protests by clowns haters, or people who want to vandalize clown statues?''
Controversy over the proposed figures swept Sarasota this month, with news of the plan drawing heated reaction from locals, both pro- and anti-clown. Amazed city commissioners fielded complaints from locals professing an ungodly fear of clowns. A television crew showed up at a Public Arts Committee meeting -- dumbfounding its members -- where a handful of artists begged the city to abandon what they described as an ''ill-conceived'' and ''Disney-esque'' plan.
An editorial in The Sarasota Herald-Tribune cautioned that ``there's a fine line between taste and prejudice, and clown foes are at risk of crossing it.''
''I've gotten e-mails from people who say they have a phobia of clowns. And I'm stunned,'' said Ken Shelin, a city commissioner. ``I don't know whether these people are pulling my leg or telling the truth.''
The commotion struck a raw nerve throughout the circus community here, and many feel that those who are grumbling about the clowns have snubbed an integral part of the city's past. Though the circus moved its winter home 20 miles south to Venice in the 1960s -- it left that town in 1991 -- John Ringling left an indelible imprint on Sarasota. A major roadway, a museum and an arts school, to cite a few examples, bear his name. Untold thousands of Sarasota locals either performed in the circus or are descendants of elephant trainers, acrobats and workers, and many hundreds still perform in traveling shows while calling Sarasota home.
''Clowning and the circus are vital to the community. We have embraced the community and they have embraced us,'' said Sidlow, 46, a full-time clown and graduate from the now-shuttered Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. ``It was very hurtful, them saying that clowns put the fear of god in some people. It's disrespectful. I don't think they realize how hurtful it comes out.''
Part of the debate boils down to whether clowns -- and clowning -- constitute art. Sidlow and his fellow performers insist their work is a craft, albeit one with a reputation sullied by the perception that anyone can slather on ghostly greasepaint, don a fright wig and rubber nose and become a clown. Picasso, they note, painted clowns.
Dolly Jacobs, an aerialist with Circus Sarasota and daughter of Lou Jacobs, a legendary clown whose face graced a U.S. postage stamp, compared clowns to the court jesters of yore, and said their work ''comes from the core, the heart.'' Karen Bell, a clown who works at hospitals and old-age homes, said clowns serve a deeper purpose than mere diversion.