World-renowned artist installing stick sculpture in Sarasota

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SARASOTA - Be careful driving down the Tamiami Trail around the old Sarasota High School. It's not often you see a work of art stop traffic, but this one may do just that.

North Carolina-based sculptor Patrick Dougherty started putting his stick work sculpture together Tuesday. The stick sculpture is going up fast on the front lawn of the old Sarasota High School building along Tamiami Trail, where the soon to be renovated building will be turned into the new Sarasota Museum of Art.

"I've got an idea about a circus tent being in town…this is a pole for it, it will be stick columns, and it'll have a top to it. It'll be like a circus on the top and a fun house on the bottom," says Dougherty.

And the only material he'll use are crepe myrtle sticks -- not even anything to hold them together. "I had to figure out what birds and beavers already knew, that sticks have a way of hooking tougher and an infuriating tendency to tangle."

And he says that tangle will form a work of art.

But is it really art? "Yes it’s really art. This is an individual, his paint brush is really a stick. And that stick is what he transforms into this sculpture that you will see built," says Wendy Surkis, president of Sarasota Museum of Art.

And she is betting that Dougherty's stick will attract attention to the project and help raise the rest of the $22 million needed to complete the building. Right now, they're 70% there, and she hopes it also sends a message to the community. "Help us finish this project so this can become a bustling destination, so the community can have more of these innovative and fresh ideas for Sarasota."

Dougherty is the only person there being paid. All the rest of the workers are very dedicated volunteers. "It's a blast. It's a lot of work, as you can tell, but it's awesome…everybody driving by beeping, it's exciting," says volunteer Jan Burtnett.

She says it's also exciting to work with Doughtery. He's the talk of the art world, with stick works at important locations all over the world.

He says this stick sculpture will attract just as much attention as his other works that are creating so much international buzz. "We want people to be able to see it from their car as well as walk up and enjoy it. So getting the right scale and having something interesting enough to encourage people to come over and enjoy it."

The sculpture will cost $50,000 to $60,000 dollars. It'll take Dougherty three weeks to complete and will last about 2 years.

When asked if a strong wind would blow it away, he says it'd have to be pretty strong. But if it's a hurricane that can pick up your car, it'll probably take his stick sculpture too.

To learn more about the stick sculpture and the new Sarasota Museum of Art go to