Quark Hits The Road: Big, Blue Sculpture Leaves Downtown Tallahassee

Dec 16, 2013

Tallahassee lost a giant piece of public art Monday.  The woman responsible for finding a five-year home for the blue metal sculpture called Quark said an emotional goodbye as it departed for Orlando.

First thing on this chilly Monday morning, Isaac Duncan was laying down wooden planks on the grass in Doug Burnett Park in downtown Tallahassee.

"What I’m doing is I’m setting up these six-by-sixes on the ground so when we can take each element down, we lay it right on there," he said.

Duncan is part of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based crew of Quark sculptor John Henry. They were tasked with dismantling the 20-ton piece and putting its components on flat-bed trucks.  Tallahassee Council on Culture and Arts Interim Director Amanda Karioth Thompson sat nearby with a carafe of coffee at the ready. She said she was trying to behave herself.

"Officer Scandoni with the Tallahassee Police Department has been extremely helpful, and he actually came out earlier this morning just to make sure that I hadn’t chained myself to the piece," she said.

Thompson was able to extend Quark’s stay in Tallahassee from the six months originally planned to five years. She says, she’d hoped the city would find a buyer to allow it to stay permanently.

“I kind of feel like she’s a kindergartner and I’m sending her off to school," she said. "She’s five years old to me and I’m her mama.”

Quark's sculptor, Henry, takes a less sentimental view of the move. After all, he says, he builds about 100 pieces every year.

“I’ve been doing this for 50 years. Maybe I’m just numb," he said.

The sculpture now moves to the Orlando Museum of Art.

And with a public park now unadorned, Tallahassee architect Deborah Desilets says she’d like to see a set of mosaics depicting Spanish explorers taken out of storage and installed in Quark’s place.

“It would be nice to see if we could see a reconsideration of  the 'Explorers' going in that location,” she says.

Desilets represented Starwood Hotels when they donated the six 18-foot-tall mosaics a couple years ago after the Americana Hotel was demolished in Miami.

But Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer says before the “Explorers” can go anywhere, the city needs to raise more than $80,000 dollars to restore them. And he says he’s committed to making that happen next year.

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