Refrigerator Exhibit Leaves Neighborhood Cold

SARASOTA (970 WFLA) -- A Sarasota architect is apologizing, after his art exhibit caused a major controversy in a predominantly black neighborhood.

Jerry Sparkman says he didn't mean to offend, although a lot of people took offense in Sarasota's Newtown area, to the work he installed as part of an exhibit at the Center for Architecture. 

Sparkman's work, one of several decorated refrigerators, was titled "The Face of MLK" and focused on the historic African-American neighborhood. It featured the letters "M L K", a baseball cap with the word "chocolate", Nike sneakers, and plastic bags full of white powder. His caption said the artwork meant to show the neighborhood along Martin Luther King Boulevard was known for drugs and crime, but that expansion by nearby Ringling College of Art and Design is, in his words, "changing the complexion" of the neighborhood. 

An outcry on social media and threats of a protest led to a community meeting Monday night, at which Sparkman appeared and offered a mea culpa, insisting he had no intention to offend. The refrigerator art has been taken down. 

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