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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.
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.”
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.”