Meet Tampa’s Newest Celebrity: A Giant Airport Flamingo
TAMPA – An eye-catching 21-foot flamingo has finally fully landed on its perch at Tampa International Airport, and people are talking. And tweet. And take lots of selfies.
As part of Tampa Bay Fashion Week, three local designers were challenged to create artwork inspired by the newly installed flamingo. They showed off their designs on Saturday and offered their response to Tampa’s latest Instagram celebrity.
Artist Matthew Mazzotta’s resin and fiberglass flamingo sculpture is called “Home”. It was ordered for $520,000.
It has been under construction all summer and was only recently completed with metal panels on the ceiling to look like water and dappled lighting on the floor. The effects make it look like the big bird is dipping its head underwater to grab a snack. His effect on tourists has been a steady line of people posing for photos with him at the airport.
The giant flamingo already feels destined to be a Tampa Bay icon, captured in everyone’s vacation snaps, artists and travel marketers said at Saturday’s Fashion Week gathering. When the heavy head and pink webbed feet were first installed in the main terminal in March, the sculpture immediately caught the eye as a selfie magnet on social media.
With construction barriers only recently removed, Saturday felt like a coming out party.
The artists designed hats, handbags and dresses emblazoned with flamingos, which are on sale in a pop-up local produce shop set up near the flamingo at The Shoppes at Bayshore on the third level of the main terminal. They felt a sense of kinship with the bird, which they say gives a good first impression of the Tampa Bay area.
“It really speaks to us as a city. It makes you happy,” said designer Erik Wise, owner of the Artisan Row store in Westshore Plaza. “Airports don’t usually make you smile. Some of them are quite the opposite of that. But it gives you something to make you smile.
Instead of a dress or a hat, designer Karen Fultz-Robinson, who runs her ObservaMé brand of comfortable activewear in Tampa, wrote a poem, she said, because she felt inspired.
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“I like that he’s underwater so you can see he’s busy at work,” she said. “Like us entrepreneurs, when you see us above the water, we are very calm but maybe we are paddling feverishly underwater.”
She predicted that Tampa would one day be nicknamed “Flamingo Airport” by travelers.
It took embroidery machines three hours to print each flamingo image on the tunic dresses designed by Elizabeth Carson Racker for the Fashion Week challenge. She has a fabric and design store, Queens Fabric, at 14902 N Florida Ave. in Tampa, and said the flamingo is a perfect icon for Tampa Bay.
“We’re big, loud and over the top,” she said. “We show our colors.