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International array of artists chosen as finalists for pier project

By Waveney Ann Moore

ST. PETERSBURG — A diverse group of six artists will compete for a chance to install their work at the city’s multimillion-dollar Pier District, expected to open in early 2019.

Wednesday a committee appointed by the city’s Public Arts Commission pared a list of 13 artists from the United States and Europe to six finalists. The committee also selected two alternates.

Making the cut were Xenobia Bailey, an African-American artist known for her work with fiber and mosaics; Jun Kaneko, who was born in Nagoya, Japan, in 1942 and has his studio in Nebraska; Ned Kahn, Nathan Mabry and the Ball-Nogues Studio are all from California; Jeppe Hein is based in Europe.

The two alternates are Nick Ervinck, whose website says he’s based in Lichtervelde, Belgium, and Joe O’Connell from Arizona.

Committee member Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of [email protected], tried unsuccessfully to get local artist Catherine Woods included on the list of finalists.

There were lively discussions during the almost three-hour meeting. Ken Cowart, an architect with ASD, the Tampa-based firm designing the pier portion of the 26-acre district, urged that Bailey be removed from consideration.

"She has never designed mosaic outside. She has not done exterior art," he said.

Artist and fellow committee member Ya Levy La’ford disagreed and said she is working with the New York-based artist on an outdoor project.

The call for talent for the high-profile project drew 277 artists. The committee reviewed 71 qualified candidates before selecting the finalists.

The artists are competing for a total of $488,000 in public art funds. Of that, $348,000 has been designated for the pier section of the project, which will stretch 1,265 feet into Tampa Bay and includes Spa Beach. The approach, which links the pier to the city’s downtown, has been allocated $140,000 for public art.

The finalists will each receive a $3,500 honorarium and $1,500 in reimbursements for travel expenses.

In a separate process to bring public art to the Pier District, the city has designated $1.3 million for engineering and infrastructure to install an aerial net sculpture by world famous artist Janet Echleman at Spa Beach.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.