- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

They would be twin mermaids to be reckoned with: two tons of flippant flippers, glowing lights and strategically placed hair, each 50 feet tall from tail to crown.
If sculptor Rubin Tracy gets his way, the pair will one day stand at the sea entrance of the Port of Miami towering over sand, crab and cruise ship and visible from Rosie O'Donnell's house in nearby Key Biscayne.
They're behemoths.
Mr. Tracy says he already has the verbal blessings of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which own the two jetties which mark the "Government Cut" between South Pointe and Fisher Island.
He envisions a mermaid perched on each jetty, turquoise and jade-green tail curled beneath her, a triton in one hand and a clear globe light in the other. He described their features as "Asian, African-American, Caucasian and Latin" and has given them a noble title: "Promise of a Safe Return."
But the sizable sirens may prove too much even for Miami Beach.
"The public needs a voice here," said Merle Weiss of Art in Public Places, a city agency that commissions and buys contemporary public art.
Mr. Tracy detailed his ideas before the agency Tuesday. The mermaids, cast in bronze and overlayed with pigment, would costs about $4 million, drawn primarily from private donations. And they are monumental set upon granite bases with 14-foot concrete pilings and capable of resisting a 12-foot tidal surge.
"These mermaids will have a huge impact, people could see them from the air, from 30 city blocks away, from million-dollar homes nearby," said Miss Weiss. "It would be smack in the back yards of people of Fisher Island. This is not necessarily what we have envisioned."
Ten years ago, the city did not envision a 350-foot statue of Christopher Columbus either. Italy had offered the colossus as a gift to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the explorer's landing. It was rejected for sheer size 48 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.
Flamingos, on the other hand, are fine. In May, Miami Beach will unveil an outdoor sculpture installation of 400 larger-than-life flamingos "painted, collaged, bejeweled and bedazzled," each with its own corporate sponsor plus approval from the official Flamingo Review Committee.
Such things are not uncommon, though. In recent years, Cincinnati staged a similiar project with pigs while Seattle opted for beagles and Albuquerque, N.M., ponies.
Meanwhile, mermaid sculptor Mr. Tracy is navigating the bureaucratic causeways of other Florida agencies.
Though preliminary reaction from the Army has been positive, the sculptor must still pass muster with Dade County, the Port of Miami, the city of Miami, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Regulation Management.
Beyond aesthetic impact, will the mermaids present an environmental danger? Will they topple over in a hurricane or foul up boat navigation?
Mr. Tracy told the Miami Herald that the outlook was encouraging. He meets with Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer next week.
At least the mermaids will be large enough to withstand the rigors of public life. Denmark's petite "Little Mermaid" sculpture that greets visitors to Copenhagen has been beheaded and splattered with paint, among other indignities.
Arts officials, however, say that Mr. Tracy's mermaids are only in "chapter one" of development.
"Besides," noted Miss Weiss, "We already have a mermaid sculpture. It sits outside Miami Beach's city hall and it's real nice."


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