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Beaufort officials are revamping plans for public art in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, adding additional sculptures and murals after an original plan for a 4-ton stone dolphin and mermaid sculpture foundered amid public controversy.'
Sculptures of a whale's tail and a family of four will be donated to the city, said Public Art Commission Chairwoman Leslie Hendricks, and Yemassee artist James Denmark has been asked to complete Lowcountry-themed murals for two walls on a new restroom and maintenance building to be built at the foot of the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge.'
The City Council will be presented with a budget and placement of art in the weeks ahead and asked for approval, said Mayor Bill Rauch.'
Waterfront Park began a yearlong, $6.6 million repair job in July to fix drain pipes and its seawall and install new lawns and a pavilion. Based on a 2003 city resolution to devote 1 percent of capital project costs to public artwork, the city could spend as much as $66,000 on art in the park.'
Beaufort's Public Art Commission had endorsed a 14-foot-long sculpture proposed by St. Augustine, Fla.-artist Thomas Glover W. called "The Wave" that featured a mermaid, fish and sun washed up in an ocean swirl.'
Public outcry forced the artist to make amended sketches of the sculpture that replaced the mermaid with a dolphin riding the wave -- reminiscent of the white dolphin Carolina Snowball caught outside of Beaufort in 1960.'
Even with the new drawings, the City Council was uncomfortable spending as much as $55,00 for the work, and the art commission has since discussed reducing the size of the sculpture and adding other artwork to the park.'
St. Helena Island woodworker Bill "Buzzy" Bosworth created a fiberglass sculpture of a humpback whale tail in 1994 and displayed it at shows, with water dripping from it.'
Now in storage in Charlotte, Bosworth said Beaufort resident Joe Mix is paying for its installation in the park.'
"There's just a very subtle mist," Bosworth said of the kid-friendly tail.'
An unidentified patron is paying for Beaufort artist Suzanne Longo to make a 4-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a family of four with a dog for placement near the playground, and Hendricks said Denmark has been asked to paint murals of Gullah scenes on the walls of the new building.'
The mayor said that memorials in the park are proposed to stay put but that bronze plaques listing Beaufort's history would be moved to the wall of the Saltus building on Scott Street for pedestrians to read as they enter the park.'
Hendricks, enthusiastic about the new pieces, still longed for Thomas Glover W.'s original proposition of a surfing, fish-tailed siren.'
"I would like a mermaid, I think mermaids are great. The City of Norfolk, Virginia, thinks mermaids are great, too," Hendricks said, referencing that city's affinity for the creature.