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Venice Artist Designs Sculpture To Honor Florida Native American Tribe

'Middens,' a $215,000 piece of public art, gives nod to the a Florida city's Tocobaga Indian history and boating culture.

Nearly 1,000 years ago, Tocobaga Indians walked along the shorelines of Western Florida. 

Now, a Venice-based artist’s sculpture may soon honor their legacy in the Tampa Bay area city of Clearwater, Fla.

The agricultural people lived off the land fishing and farming. They were in the area when Spanish explorers like Hernando de Soto and Panfilo de Narvaez came to conquer.

Between diseases and wars the Tocobaga all but disappeared by the 18th century. What is left of their culture can be seen in ceremonial mounds made of shells, animal bones and broken pottery, or middens, in and around St. Petersburg, Fla.

Cliff Garten of Venice, designed the $215,000 public art piece "Middens" to honor the area's native history and welcome visitors to the Clearwater Harbor Marina. 

A nationwide call to artists brought in 246 applicants. That was whittled to 33 and then reduced to four. The city’s Public Art and Design Board selected Garten.

He has completed more than 50 sculptures on display in landscapes as part of civic projects throughout the country and Canada.

"Middens" will feature a cross-hatching of steel bars in the shape of two larger-than-life scallop shells. One is a circular seven feet, the other is six feet by eight feet. Stainless steel tubing is formed and arranged in concentric circles to create a screen pattern. The shells sit atop a midden and are encircled in two rings of crushed shell. A spectrum of LED lights will keep the artwork aglow at night.

Clearwater leaders are expected to sign off on the art at their meeting on Thursday.

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