In September 2020, three sculptures of human figures, known as ‘Fragments,’ were installed at MM 80.1 in Islamorada. The pieces were created by Shiho Sato of Yokohama, Japan, who moved to New York City in search of its arts community. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

A newly-seated Islamorada planning committee sent a proposed art in public places ordinance back to the drawing board at a Nov. 13 meeting at Founders Park Community Center. 

Known as the Local Planning Agency (LPA), the group of seven members convened for the first time since the village council approved a new committee selection process a few months ago. As a result, members who served on one of the several advisory boards, including the LPA, had to reapply for a seat. The new process served as an opportunity for other residents who hadn’t served before but had interest. 

Returning LPA members include Deb Gillis, who was picked again as chairwoman, and Lorie LaLonde, who was chosen to be vice chair. Tony Hammon, Susan Raffanello and James Rhyne were other returning members. New to the LPA are Patrick Foley and Cheryl Culberson. 

LPA members spent a portion of the meeting examining and eventually tabling an ordinance drafted by village attorney John Quick for a new public art program to help integrate the work of local artists in municipal buildings and outdoor spaces. Islamorada doesn’t have anything in the books regarding art in public places. While council gave Quick direction to draft language, Planning Director Jennifer DeBoisbriand said the five members didn’t give much direction as to what they were seeking with the program. 

“They just wanted an ordinance on art in public places,” she said. 

Per draft language, a seven-person public art committee would form, of whom two members would hold a background in landscape or engineering; one would be a professional artist;. one would have knowledge in public art, education or outreach; and one would be from the development community. In working alongside the planning department, the committee would provide recommendations to the council on framework and funds for the program. The group would also recommend approval or disapproval of artworks based on a master plan and guidelines. 

LPA members and one member from the art community who spoke weren’t particularly in favor of a section in the ordinance involving placement of art on private property. Per draft language, placement of art on private property would need to go through an application process and subsequent review by the public art committee and the council. Beth Kamenstein, who serves on the county Arts in Public Places Committee, told LPA members the ordinance shouldn’t get involved with what people place on their private properties. 

“The main drive of this ordinance was for public places,” she said. “When you are in public places, people tend to look at it and think about it. It elevates conversation about art.”

Members agreed with Kamenstein, including Gillis.

“We’re not trying to get into the private sector,” she said. “We ought to take a lead from Key West and Monroe County and put our spin on it.”

LaLonde said several properties in Islamorada already have art, including Kaiyo, Islander on the bayside and Green Turtle Inn. 

“The intent was really specifically geared toward public buildings and public places, not so much somebody’s private home or private business property,” she said. 

Culberson believed the committee should be reduced from seven to three members with knowledge in all areas. DeBoisbriand said village staff will rework the ordinance and bring a simpler proposal back.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.