ST. PETERSBURG — The details in Catherine Woods’ art become more obvious once you look closely — and look around.
They’re a visual scavenger hunt for even the most observant native. She left clues in the overlapping layers of flora and fauna, outlines of surrounding buildings and the running theme of a circle.
On Friday morning, Woods got to see her art the way it was intended. A teal hybrid electric bus pulled forward to reveal to Woods and a crowd of local dignitaries the sun beaming through her art, fired in between the glass of the first station ready for the SunRunner, a 16-stop bus rapid transit line that will shuttle passengers from downtown St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach in 30 minutes.
“I love that there’s always a little extra reveal even to the artist as you move along,” she said. “That’s exciting.”
The SunRunner won’t start operating until July or August 2022, but local leaders gathered at the downtown bus stop at First Avenue N and Fifth Street to mark the progress on a project they hope will be a solution to growing problems of congestion and traffic. The bus will have its own dedicated lanes on First avenues north and south and down Pasadena Avenue S to the TradeWinds on Gulf Boulevard.
Half the funding for the $41 million project comes from federal tax dollars, a quarter from the state and the rest from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the city of St. Petersburg. The bike lanes along First avenues north and south, which were interrupted for construction of the SunRunner system, will shift to Central Avenue west of 34th Street.
“Our investment will make the SunRunner service unique in comparison to premium transit services in other cities,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman. “And this artwork is as functional as it is beautiful visually and enhancing each sheltered station and reflecting the unique characteristics of the neighborhoods and business districts in which they’re located.”
Woods, who has been commissioned to create public art around St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay, competed against hundreds of artists to win the $700,000 bid to illustrate each of the 16 stops.
Woods took thousands of photographs to capture the unique neighborhoods around each of the stops. Some have repeated elements, like elephant ear leaves and schefflera shrubs. If each station was lined up, it would look like a running collage.
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It took Woods two years to complete the project and four tries to get the colors on the tempered glass shelter mural on Fifth Street N just right. This stop features line drawings of the Christ United Methodist Church, the Palladium, shuffleboard courts, 1920s Central Avenue facades, the judicial building, City Hall and a roseate spoonbill.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “It’s so nice to see it. I’ve been looking at the 13-inch-by-19-inch samples for a long time now, so it’s just thrilling to see it full size and looking like it does.”