Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

Published April 25 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans will return to the pier in fanciful form.

A California artist has been selected to create an enormous, red origami sculpture of a pelican that will serve as a metal perch for three more lifelike, but no less fanciful, imitations of the city’s ubiquitous water bird.

The creator of the 13-foot sculpture was one of three artists chosen by the pier public arts committee on Tuesday evening to install their work in the new 26-acre Pier District, which is now under construction.

The committee unanimously voted in favor of California artist Nathan Mabry’s pelican sculpture, entitled "Myth (Red Pelican.)" It will serve as a welcome for visitors at the entry plaza to the $76-million Pier District.

"It’s bright, it’s cheery, it’s playful. Kids are going to love it," committee chair Laura Bryant said of the $140,000 work.

Committee member Al May later announced that he will donate the money for one of the smaller red, metal pelicans. One of the smaller pelicans will cost $7,000, and Bryant imagines others eventually populating the pier. Also, visitors will be offered instructions on how to fold their very own paper origami red pelicans.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: International array of artists chosen as finalists for pier project

The committee also selected African-American artist Xenobia Bailey, known for her work with fiber and mosaics, for a commission. Her colorful work will be displayed on the east wall of a pavilion that will rise near to a splash pad in the Pier District.

Bailey’s first public art commission, Funktional Fibrations, is on display at the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority’s 34th Street-Hudson Yards subway station.

Nick Ervinck, who flew in from Belgium for the artists’ presentations on Tuesday, will create one of his dynamic, water-like metal sculptures for the vicinity of the pier head (entitled: "Olnetopia"), or a pierced metal, laser-cut for the ceiling of the first floor of the pier head building (entitled: "Wibonoyer.) His project depends on the cost, which must fit within a $140,000 budget.

The artists were 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 includes the pier head and runs to Spa Beach. The pier approach, which links the pier to the city’s downtown, has been allocated $140,000 for public art.

"I think we got a very good result today," Bryant said. "I’m incredibly impressed with the devotion of this team and the work they have done and the commitment they have made and the seriousness that they approached every artist with and the respect."

Jason Jensen of local architects Wannemacher Jensen, the firm that is designing the pier approach with W Architecture of New York, was one of the eight committee members making Tuesday’s decision.

Jensen said he was pleased with the diverse backgrounds of the artists selected.

"I absolutely agree with Jason ... " Bryant said. "I think that we have picked art that will engage people, that will delight them and that will make them think."

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