Friday, July 20, 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 [email protected], 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 [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

Comments
At least 11 dead after Missouri duck boat sinks; search for 5 resumes

At least 11 dead after Missouri duck boat sinks; search for 5 resumes

Authorities say 11 people died after a duck boat carrying about 31 passengers capsized and sank Thursday on Table Rock Lake near the tourist town of Branson, Missouri.Some of the dead passengers were children, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told rep...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Inside a suicide hotline center; St. Petersburg residents storm city council with allegations; should Rays trade Chris Archer?

The Daystarter: Inside a suicide hotline center; St. Petersburg residents storm city council with allegations; should Rays trade Chris Archer?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today brings a 50 percent chance of rain and high temperatures in the mid to upper 80s, according to the National Weather Service.• As you head out for your morning commute, check out...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

TAMPA — Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and other countries are beginning to push up prices and depress demand in spots around the Tampa Bay area and Florida, business executives say."We’ve definitely seen that the tariffs have increased ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Get this: Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender

Get this: Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender

This surprised me: Little ole Bank of the Ozarks is the country’s largest construction lender, loaning out more to the industry than financial heavyweight Wells Fargo and Bank of America.Those factoids were part of a lengthy profile of the bank pub...
Published: 07/20/18

Carlton: Rotary Clubs support no-women-allowed dinner. What year is this?

Going "stag" sounds so old-fashioned — boys night out, sans the gals.But it’s not so outdated in certain Rotary clubs in the Brandon suburbs and still rural Plant City. There, the decades-old no-women-allowed tradition of the yearly stag Wild Game Ni...
Published: 07/20/18
Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer wants the Rays to get going.Trade more veterans. Bring back Willy Adames and bring up the next group of kids. Get on with getting better, and get back to reaching the postseason, as they did four times over six yea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Chickens remain free to range in Ybor

Chickens remain free to range in Ybor

TAMPA — Ybor City chickens have escaped the political chopping block — again.The Tampa City Council on Thursday declined to do anything about a wild flock of poultry that drew a loud, strong throng of supporters to City Hall to ask council members no...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Activists camp out in protest at Tampa’s Homeland Security, ICE offices

Activists camp out in protest at Tampa’s Homeland Security, ICE offices

TAMPA — The national movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency came to Tampa on Thursday night — and it’s in tents.Approximately 25 local activists gathered next to Cypress Drive in front of the local Department of Homeland S...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome survived her first round on the PGA Tour at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., on Thursday, and she can't wait to do it again Friday.Though Lincicome shot 6-over 78 and will likely miss the cut — she ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Nick DiMaggio, the longtime athletic director at Tampa Catholic who was a fixture at the school's sporting events for more than 50 years, died Wednesday (July 18, 2018) from complications related to a stroke. He was 86."Nick was an icon, a walking en...
Updated: 8 hours ago