Cost Overruns Put Bexar County’s Plethora Sculpture on Indefinite Hold

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A rendering of the Plethora sculpture by artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada stands at the proposed location of the public art piece along phase one of the San Pedro Creek project.

The Bexar County-commissioned Plethora sculpture designed for the San Pedro Creek Linear Park is officially on hold because officials have not been able to identify funding sources to cover unexpected fabrication costs that are exceeding the project’s original budget.

Originally budgeted for $735,000, the metal sculpture designed by a Spanish artist was intended to mark the entrance to the restored San Pedro Creek as part of the Tricentennial.

“There definitely is a desire to complete the project this year in the Tricentennial year, but it really is contingent upon securing those additional funds,” said Carrie Brown, public art curator for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project. “We won’t go forward with fabrication until that happens.”

Brown said she’s waiting to receive a final budget estimation from Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, the Barcelona-based artist commissioned to create Plethora in 2016.

In a Friday interview with the Rivard Report, Rodriguez-Gerada said he planned to submit a new cost estimate for Plethora in May. He said that the cost increases come largely from changing the material of the sculpture from aluminum to stainless steel, a change imposed by the project’s engineers, ARUP Group, to ensure the statue’s structural integrity.

“The cost just got way out of kilter,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said on Friday.

T.J. Mayes, Wolff’s chief of staff, said that “any estimation that exceeds that original $735,000 budget, as far as Judge Wolff is concerned, would need to be presented to the San Antonio River Authority and the San Antonio River Foundation for the purposes of securing private donations.”

Bexar County Commissioners learned in December that the project would not be completed by its original May 5 deadline. They directed Robert Amerman, director of the San Antonio River Foundation, to meet with the San Antonio River Authority and explore possible fundraising opportunities for Plethora.

Plethora, the Tricentennial public art piece by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada.

Courtesy / Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada

Plethora, the Tricentennial Artwork piece by Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada.

Amerman said Friday that the two organizations had met to explore possible funding mechanisms based on the Commissioners’ prompting, but are waiting to hear the new cost estimate.

A total of $257,250 has been spent to date on Plethora. Rodriguez-Gerada received $123,500 for his work and the other $133,750 has been spent on the 10-ton statue’s foundation, which is located near the tunnel inlet of San Pedro Creek.

The sculpture – and its cost – have become an issue in the race for Bexar County Judge. Tom Rickhoff, a Republican Bexar County probate judge seeking the office held by Wolff since 2001, decried Plethora as a frivolous “vanity” art piece for his opponent during a press conference Tuesday.

“They don’t know what the final cost is, they don’t know what it means, they don’t know when it’s going to be done, they don’t know what it’s going to be constructed of, they don’t know how big it’s going to be,” Rickhoff said. “No one can tell you what this is going to cost.”

Bexar County Judge Tom Rickhoff.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff discusses cost overruns in the construction of Plethora.

Rickhoff questioned whether Commissioners had authorization to commission such an art piece, arguing that the money instead should be going to service programs for County wards in need.

Mayes told the Rivard Report after Rickhoff’s Tuesday press conference that the County is involved in many “voter-approved” revitalization projects throughout the city.

Most of the other public art projects related to the San Pedro Creek Improvement project are on schedule, some of which may already be seen lining the creek’s banks. The grand opening of the park’s first segment is set for May 5.

“The tile murals are going up, and things are going very smoothly,” Brown said.

In an October 2017 Instagram post, Rodriguez-Gerada described Plethora as “the most ambitious and complex project I have ever taken on.” On Friday he said “this is the most important thing that I’m doing, and it’s an incredible labor of love.”

“It’s the intent to create an iconic monument to the founding of the city,” Rodriguez-Gerada said.

But with uncertainty surrounding how much money and time will be needed to complete the project, Plethora‘s future is unclear.

“We’ll see what happens with it,” Wolff said. “I hope we’re able to get it figured out.”

16 thoughts on “Cost Overruns Put Bexar County’s Plethora Sculpture on Indefinite Hold

  1. Leave it to yay-hoos like Tom Rickhoff to label public art as “frivolous vanity.” Is the Cenotaph “vanity?” Is the Vietnam Memorial in front of the Tobin “frivolous?” A great city needs great art to commemorate, beautify and authenticate it’s global significance. We are not some minor backwater any longer – it took us 300 years to become this remarkable. Own it!

  2. Rickoff must lead a very dull life if he, within his private life, follows his own guidelines related to art being frivolous. I lived in Corpus Christi for 30 years. A senior citizens group with beliefs like his took over politics first through stalling everything and then through running for office and stopping everything. That was the beginning of Corpus Christi starting to look dull, uninteresting and unprogressive. (Has everyone noticed that flowers have not been planted in the medians of Ocean Dr. there for the past 20 years thanks to that group?)

  3. Art is subjective. As they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I certainly agree with Rickhoff on this one. Certainly we can still have public art at a reasonable price. I never saw the beauty in proposed sculpture. It has been a thorn in the county’s side since the price and delivery have been announced. Come on people, there are other options!

  4. As the artist stated, “In an October 2017 Instagram post, Rodriguez-Gerada described Plethora as “the most ambitious and complex project I have ever taken on.” On Friday he said, “this is the most important thing that I’m doing, and it’s an incredible labor of love.” And I assume then its the highest paying project he has ever undertaken. So is this Spanish artist even qualified for this project, does he live in San Antonio? The art doesn’t even complement the park’s environment nor SA. To me it’s a reflection of Wolff’s alter ego.

  5. We should contract our local artist to do any work that is funded by local dollars.
    Hire local first for all projects.

  6. Why wasn’t a Texas artist commissioned to create a piece instead of the Spanish artist they got? Does this artist have any ties to San Antonio? Question about the cost…is this piece being fabricated in the U.S. or Spain? If in Spain that seems like an unneeded expense for shipping?

  7. It’s HIDEOUS!
    And relates to San Antonio in no perceptible way.
    Stainless steel is a dead material. Unchanging.
    Along the Malecon in Havana there’s a large public metal sculpture of a hollowed woman’s head that has movement suggested in the sculpture itself (hair flowing back like she’s facing a head wind) and the metal has rusted to a rich color. I saw that and immediately thought of the thing we were getting.
    Glad it’s over! Sorry about funds wasted so far. Find a competent local artist. Or see who did the one in Cuba…

  8. The San Pedro Creek Project should be the “art”. Why must we waste valuable public funds on monuments that no one cares about or understands?

  9. I totally missed the boat on this one. I was thinking it was a woman’s face molded by 300 local women working 300 days with aluminum foil!! And it turn out to be some overburdened spanish guy soldering stainless steel in spain. Hope the tariffs dont kill it.

  10. Have a local artist create something more tasteful and for a better price! I totally support the arts, but there’s nicer things that could be done and we have better things in our county to spend on than this monstrosity.

  11. Rickhoff aside, this sculpture can only be described as pure hubris.

    Think of the endless number of other ways that hundreds of thousands of dollars could be spent to better this city. It evidences a severe disconnect somewhere between the county leadership and reality.

    If forced to spend close to $1M on a statute, why not something created by a local artist or tied to local history?

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