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St. Pete selects 3 artists to display in Pier District

Origami-shaped pelican made of steel by Nathan Mabry

Rendering of proposed work by Nick Ervinck

An example of Xenobia Bailey's work

St. Pete Pier progress from earlier in April, 2018

St. Pete Pier under construction

Three artists have been selected to create public art for the new 26-acre, $76-million Saint Petersburg Pier District. The decion was made last week by the nine-member Pier Public Art Committee, who deliberated on more than 70 entries over the past two years.

The winners include Belgian multimedia artist Nick Ervinck, and Americans Xenobia Bailey and Nathan Mabry, from New York City and Los Angeles respectively.

“We left it fairly open as far as criteria,” Wayne Atherholt, the Saint Petersburg cultural affairs director, tells 83 Degrees. “They were looking for an artist who has had a major installation before and didn't want to experiment with someone who has never created any public art before. That was probably the biggest consideration.”

These three artists fit the bill -- they’re each renowned in their own right and with major installations under their belts. Bailey and Mabry submissions, in particular, reflect values and themes that resonate throughout St. Petersburg.

Bailey is best known for her colorful, vibrant, and complicated geometric crochets. Her commissioned piece will include a mosaic inspired by her fiber art.

“Understanding Xenobia's whole process of crocheting [a pattern], digitizing it, and converting it into tile is a fascinating thing,” Atherholt says. “The state headquarters for Florida craft art is here in Saint Petersburg. Craft art is often overlooked in public art but here is somebody who is doing an absolutely incredible job, starting with craft and transformed into this wonderful public art installation.” An example of Xenobia Bailey's work

Mabry’s origami-inspired, steel pelican sculpture will stand at the entrance to the pier.

“The origami was an interesting approach, with a little nod to our sister city over in Japan,” Atherholt says, in reference to Takamatsu, Japan. “The pelican is obviously a symbol of the city and has interactivity in it. There's a chance to add additional pelicans to the proposal. One person has bought [the addition of] a pelican already.”

Ervnick's work is yet to be confirmed.

Atherholt admits he can’t speak for the nine committee members regarding their own affinity for these artists, but suggests that art often has a visceral impact.

“In some sense art just sings to you, and in this case I think [the committee members] saw the right art at the right location, and certainly within the right budget, and that's what appealed to them,” Atherholt says.

Like many cities, St. Petersburg has a “Percentage for Art” ordinance, which allocates a percentage of overall construction costs of public projects toward providing public art. The budget for the Pier Public Art project was set at $488,000.

The pier itself is making steady progress. As of mid-April, over 330 of 425 pilings have been set, and the concrete deck of the pier is about third complete. The Pier is scheduled to open in fall of 2019.

Read more articles by Dyllan Furness.

Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives. 
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