Wednesday, September 19, 2018
News Roundup

Grounded: St. Pete City Council rejects Echelman’s aerial artwork

ST. PETERSBURG — One of artist Janet Echelman’s colorful, lighted aerial sculptures will not fly over the downtown waterfront — at least not yet.

The City Council on Thursday night voted down a $1.5 million contract to build the art project, rejecting the signature piece of public artwork Mayor Rick Kriseman had long sought to add to the city’s new Pier District.

The 4-3 vote was made after a 3½-hour discussion, as residents lined up to speak out in support of the project and against plans to install the large, billowing net sculpture at Spa Beach, which is protected by the city charter.

The council, though, sent city staff back to the drawing board and asked for a report to determine whether the sculpture could be moved to another location in the Pier District, or reoriented at Spa Beach.

TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: JANET ECHELMAN’S AERIAL ARTWORK

Questions, costs surround Janet Echelman’s art for St. Pete pier

Some fear Spa Beach billowing net sculpture could catch birds and storms

Parks Foundation opposes Echelman sculpture on Spa Beach

Mayor Kriseman: Donors will bring Echelman sculpture to St. Pete

Council members Gina Driscoll, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell and Ed Montanari all voted to reject the art project. Charlie Gerdes, Brandi Gabbard and Darden Rice voted for it. Member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman was not present for the discussion or vote.

About 30 people signed up to make their case to the council, speaking eloquently about nature and art. When council started its discussion, Driscoll signaled early on that she was going to vote no.

"Not because I don’t want this art," she said, adding that she felt there was room for a compromise about where the artwork could be installed.

Montanari explained why he voted against it.

"I know it’s vitally important for us to preserve what we were handed down," he said, recalling historic efforts to preserve the city’s scenic waterfront.

Gerdes said he was voting for the project because the chance to land one of Echelman’s sculptures, which have been installed across the world, would have cemented the city’s status as a center of art culture.

"I do not want to lose what to me is the unbelievable opportunity ...," he said. "I do not want to miss that moment."

Rice spoke of the century-old tradition of preserving the city’s waterfront parks. She said the goal of William Straub was to preserve green space, but that she believed it was meant to support human activity.

"To me, the fabric sculpture, the Echelman piece, if it is something that ultimately beckons our citizens, our visitors, young, old, black, white, if it beckons people to wander out into that part of Spa Beach ... to sit under the fabric, to think, reflect, connect ... I think that is consistent with the dream of what Straub had for St. Petersburg."

Kriseman echoed Rice’s words. He said he didn’t think that St. Petersburg’s founding fathers wanted its downtown parks to sit vacant.

Instead, he said, Echelman’s art would activate Spa Beach: "I think it’s an incredibly exciting possibility."

The day was won by opponents such as Marsha Kuhlman, who spoke before the vote. She lives downtown and co-founded a Facebook page, Save Spa Beach Park.

"Our organization has never been against the art. It’s location, location, location," said Phil Graham Jr., president of the Waterfront Parks Foundation, which has been fighting the Echelman project at Spa Beach.

Graham showed a PowerPoint that had a rendering his organization commissioned to illustrate what it believes would be an obstruction to downtown waterfront views.

Bob Carter, chair of the Community Planning and Preservation Commission, said the issue is one of the most important preservation matters he has encountered. Though he likes the Echelman piece, Carter said he was opposed to the Spa Beach location.

"The Public Arts Commission has been working on this for over two years," said Kathryn Howd, a commission member, adding that the Echelman sculpture would transform the urban park.

During Thursday’s meeting, B2 Communications principal Kyle Parks, who volunteered to boost the Echelman project, showed a video featuring supporters such as architect Tim Clemmons, Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620, and well-known local artist Katee Tully.

"We are certainly hopeful that a resolution can be reached that can still bring a Janet Echelman sculpture to the Pier District," Parks said after the vote. "I think that in recent conversations that the city has had, the artist has shown a willingness to have some flexibility on things like size."

The controversy has pit those focused on protecting the city’s downtown waterfront parks against others who say parks should be part of a modern, urban environment.

Driscoll, whose district includes parts of downtown, summed up the problem hours earlier at a St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting:

"This is an important decision that we will be making, because we have an opportunity to bring an extraordinary artist to our city. We also have a responsibility to preserve our waterfront and make sure that we plan in the best possible way what was intended by the founding fathers of our city.

"How do we get both, that’s the question. … How can we make sure that our waterfront and our arts tradition both move forward together in some way?"

The stalled project would cost $2.8 million. Kriseman had raised $1.3 million of that in private donations for the sculpture itself, with 14 groups of donors pledging money for the art. The city has budgeted $1.3 million in public funds to build the infrastructure. The Public Arts Commission had also pledged $250,000 to the project.

The contract would have allowed Echelman to start designing her net sculpture.

"The color hues and patterns I am considering for the fiber are inspired by the vibrantly patterned beach parasols seen on historical postcards, and these colored twines can be seen brightly against the blue sky in daytime," she said by email before Thursday’s meeting.

The current concept called for an aerial artwork that would stretch approximately 200 feet and be anchored by cables to five supporting poles, one at 60 feet, three 25 feet, one at 35 feet.

Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development coordination, said this week that Echelman’s art, which he described as having "an undeniable wow factor" has "shrunk considerably" since its initial concept.

"And all of us are very happy with its size and scale relative to the project," he said.

The $76 million, 26-acre Pier District, currently under construction, is scheduled to be complete by fall 2019.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

Comments
Buccaneers-Eagles All-22: Why Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fitzmagic could be real

Buccaneers-Eagles All-22: Why Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fitzmagic could be real

It’s just a mirage.At any moment now, Ryan Fitzpatrick will come crashing back to Earth. He’ll go back to being the Fitzpatrick of 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Quarterbacks don’t t...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Rays keep pressure on, beat Rangers 9-3 for fifth straight win

Rays keep pressure on, beat Rangers 9-3 for fifth straight win

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rays still have a long way to go, and they are going to need a lot of help to get there.But they continue to do their part to try to make it a race for the final American League playoff spot, beating the Rangers 9-3 Wedne...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Ninety animals seized Tuesday in Hernando County cruelty case

Ninety animals seized Tuesday in Hernando County cruelty case

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff’s deputies seized 90 animals Tuesday and arrested a woman on animal cruelty and animal mistreatment charges after people called with concerns about an ill horse.Crystal Robin Crawford, 46, was arrested but not ta...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Local rapper encourages elementary students to attend school every day(w/video)

Local rapper Corey Thornton performs original songs on Wednesday (9/19/18) about the importance of school attendance at Walsingham Elementary School during a school wide assembly. During Attendance Awareness Month, Pinellas County Schools and the Juv...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USF, Central Michigan cancel 2-game football series

USF, Central Michigan cancel 2-game football series

USF athletic director Michael Kelly confirmed Wednesday the Bulls and Central Michigan have mutually agreed to terminate their two-game home-and-home series set to begin next year in Mount Pleasant, Mich.The agreement was reached earlier this year, b...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fitzmagic beer? Of course someone named a craft brew after Ryan Fitzpatrick

Fitzmagic beer? Of course someone named a craft brew after Ryan Fitzpatrick

The association between beards and brews is strong. Yes, craft beer lovers are a diverse and special group of men and women (don’t @ me on Twitter, beer people), but try visiting a local brewery and not finding at least one big, glorious beard ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jameis Winston’s Uber ride will never be forgotten, and shouldn’t

Jameis Winston’s Uber ride will never be forgotten, and shouldn’t

Just when you thought it was fun to be a Bucs fan again. Just when you were blissfully under the spell of FitzMagic. Just when the Bucs were becoming the cool kids in the NFL with the latest greatest show on turf.Just as the good times have arrived, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

As Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas late last week, bringing with it torrential rain and flooding, the news was grim: Towns were transformed into islands cut off by floodwaters, the number of storm-related deaths increased daily and hund...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Injuries reported in shooting at Pennsylvania judge's office

Injuries reported in shooting at Pennsylvania judge's office

MASONTOWN, Pa. — A Fayette County official says at least five people have been injured in a shooting outside of a judge's office in Pennsylvania.The Fayette County 911 center supervisor says a coroner has been called to the scene and four peop...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

Cops question viral video about human trafficking at Pinellas Publix

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is setting the record straight about a viral Facebook video posted by a Dunedin woman who claimed she almost fell victim to human trafficking. Lynne Knowles took to Facebook to share what happened to her at the Pu...
Updated: 2 hours ago