The Plethora sculpture commissioned by Bexar County for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project will not be ready for the grand opening of the project’s first segment on May 5. Completion of the controversial $735,000 piece is being delayed by fabrication issues, likely pushing it over budget.
“We don’t anticipate that it will be ready by May 5,” said Carrie Brown, the project’s public art curator. “Through this process we do anticipate some additional costs.”
The San Antonio River Authority, which is managing the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, and the nonprofit San Antonio River Foundation are meeting next week to discuss possible fundraising options to fill any budget shortfalls with private dollars, said River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott.
The meeting was set after County Manager David Smith indicated at a Commissioners Court meeting Dec. 19 that he did not think the project would be completed by the May date and that its final cost was unknown.
“If there are overruns, I know this court has always said it’s better to do it right than to just meet an arbitrary deadline,” Smith said during the meeting.
Commissioners directed Robert Amerman, executive director of the River Foundation, to meet with the River Authority to discuss possible fundraising options. In a text to the Rivard Report, Amerman said “the Foundation has not been involved yet” and that it would seek to determine how much more money was needed to complete the art project in the meetings with the River Authority.
In 2016, Bexar County commissioned Barcelona-based artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada to create the piece, which will be positioned at the San Pedro Creek plaza once completed. The foundation for the 10-ton sculpture has been laid, said Kerry Averyt, project manager for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.
The sculpture has caused controversy in some quarters. Bexar County Probate 2 Judge Tom Rickhoff has criticized the statue as an unnecessary expenditure adding to a growing County-held debt. He cited it as one of the main reasons behind his decision to run against Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is seeking a fifth term.
Other conservative groups such as Concerned Women for America and the San Antonio Family Association believe that the sculpture uses taxpayer dollars to erect a pagan goddess, and therefore violates the United States Constitution.
There is currently no indication that plans to place the sculpture at the head of the San Pedro Creek have changed. However, Brown said some aspects of the design have changed in the process of fabrication.
Instead of being 60 feet tall it will now be 45 feet tall, and instead of being made from aluminum it will now be made out of stainless steel. She said she believes that the sculpture will take six months to complete. The sculpture is being engineered by Arup Engineering Group and fabricated by the CCC Group.
Neither Averyt nor Brown said they immediately knew how much of the County’s $735,000 budget had already been spent on the sculpture. Averyt said the price for laying the sculpture’s foundation was included in a contract to build the San Pedro Creek Plaza. On Friday morning, Brown said the County has paid Rodríguez-Gerada $123,500 for work he has completed so far.