Pittsburgh artist James Simon will bring his signature larger-than-life sculptures to a proposed redesign of Perry Harvey Sr. Park, a multiyear project that will honor Tampa's black community and its musical heritage.
His work includes Liberty Avenue Musicians, three 15-foot musicians installed in historical downtown Pittsburgh. There is also a Chattanooga fiddler in Tennessee, and a 16-foot tall Buckeye Trumpet Man in Cleveland, Ohio, in a former parking lot that is now a plaza and the home of the Buckeye Jazz Festival.
Tampa City Council last week approved a $15,000 contract for Simon to design artwork for Perry Harvey Sr. Park's southern gateway. He competed against 160 applicants who submitted proposals to the city's Arts Program Division.
In a competitive review where artists' names were kept secret, Simon's art
"He seemed like he got the right feel," says Robin Nigh, the city's arts manager. "We wanted something fun, celebratory, something that driving by had a 'wow' factor and really captured the specialness of the park because it's a landmark opportunity."
Simon's submitted design is preliminary. Nigh says the final design likely will be available in March or April.
Public art is planned for the park and also for Encore, a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail complex being built by Tampa Housing Authority adjacent to Perry Harvey park. Encore will replace the former Central Park Village public housing complex which was torn down several years ago.
The park and Encore are part of a major effort to revitalize the once-vibrant neighborhood north of downtown once known as the Scrub. The area was founded after the Civil War by freed slaves. It also was the scene of a thriving black business and entertainment district which was decimated in the 1960s and '70s by highway widening projects and urban renewal.
Musical legends Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Hank Ballard and James Brown were among those who performed at clubs on Central Avenue.
Other artists have been identified for additional public art projects at Perry Harvey. Massachusetts-based artist and filmmaker Rufus Butler Seder
submitted a proposal for the park's history walk which will feature notable events and people in the neighborhood's history. Local muralist Mike Parker is slated for artwork to honor community and national leaders.
An artist also is being sought to create a statue of the late Perry Harvey Sr., a civil rights leader and founder of Tampa's first black union, the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402.
The city currently is seeking photographs or home movies from individuals or institutions regarding Tampa's black neighborhoods including the Central Avenue business district, the Scrub and Dobyville. Images will be used for a public art installation and should be submitted by Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. For information, visit the City of Tampa's website
or call 813-274-8531.
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Robin Nigh, City of Tampa