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What’s that sculpture in the roundabout at Central Avenue in St. Petersburg?

The EDGE District is getting a towering new public art piece.
New sculpture on Central Ave, St. Pete. on June 20, 2021
New sculpture on Central Ave, St. Pete. on June 20, 2021 [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Jun. 23

Maybe the circular frame lined with chunky slabs reminds you of a ferris wheel, or a bold statement necklace. To describe the shape, one reader posted a picture on Facebook of Malcolm McDowell’s pointy eyelashes in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

It’s hard to miss the latest public art piece being installed in the EDGE District this week. The towering grey sculpture is currently being assembled at the center of the roundabout on Central Avenue at 11th Street.

The eye-catching new addition to the neighborhood, titled “The Sun on the EDGE,” is the work of New York-based, Israeli-born artist Ilan Averbuch.

Averbuch was one of nearly 100 artists from around the country who applied when the EDGE Business District Association first launched the public art project in 2019, wrote association executive director Barbara Voglewede in an email. It is one of the phases in the association’s EDGE District Improvement Plan.

A selection committee whittled the submissions down to three finalists, and each created specific proposals for the space. Averbuch’s plan was favored, partially because it nodded to the industrial past of the EDGE District, which is located near the former Gas Plant area.

Averbuch’s design features recycled granite rays that radiate from a frame of weathering steel.

“The whole piece is nearly 30 feet tall and is intended to evoke multiple concepts — the sunrise/sunset, a flower that opens and closes as the viewer walks around it, and a wheel or gear that celebrates the EDGE District’s character and industrial history,” Voglewede wrote. “The granite, reclaimed from old bridges and streets, underscores that history.”

New sculpture on Central Ave, St. Pete. on June 20, 2021
New sculpture on Central Ave, St. Pete. on June 20, 2021 [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

The piece is funded by $199,000 that the EDGE Business District Association and the City of St. Petersburg secured from the Intown West Tax Increment Fund.

Construction of the design started in mid June. The public is welcome to join Averbuch, members of the selection committee, city staff and Mayor Rick Kriseman at a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. on July 15.

Averbuch is currently working on the installation and was not available for comment in time for this story. However, he noted to the association that “the open frame highlights the EDGE district and becomes incorporated into its cityscape, rather than obstructing it [and the] circular image of the sun echoes the form of the circular roundabout.”

“It’s a very bold piece, so it’s going to be very eye-catching,” said Laura Bryant, a member of the selection committee. “We are the Sunshine City, and this is a large loose representation of a sun.”

“We did not want anything that’s going to block sight lines ,” she added. “We did not want anything that was too visually busy.”

Wayne Atherholt, the city’s director of cultural affairs, acknowledged that some may be wondering how the piece will affect the flow of traffic. A hole in the center of the design allows motorists to peer through to the other side.

“Hopefully it will slow the traffic, like most art does, which is a good thing for safety,” Atherholt said.

The roundabout project also includes other improvements like additional palm trees, freshly painted curbs, a new foundation, landscape lightning and safety signage. For those who want to pause for a closer look, benches have been installed at three corners near the roundabout.

“This is a very large, elegant piece,” Bryant said. “If you’re on foot, you might stop and notice certain things about it.”

A rendering of "The Sun on the EDGE," a new roundabout art piece in the EDGE District.
A rendering of "The Sun on the EDGE," a new roundabout art piece in the EDGE District. [ Courtesy of the EDGE Business District Associatio ]