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Artist names her price for St. Pete Pier floating sculpture: $3 million

By Waveney Ann Moore, Times Staff Writer
Published: January 2, 2018 Updated: January 3, 2018 at 10:07 AM
A rendering depicting the Pier District at night if Janet Echelman's proposed art piece is installed. [City of St. Petersburg]

ST. PETERSBURG — It will cost about $3 million for the city to acquire the work of world-renowned artist Janet Echelman for the new Pier District, city arts leaders learned for the first time on Tuesday.

Echelman presented a budget, along with renderings of a colorful 350-foot-span sculpture that Mayor Rick Kriseman hopes will be an iconic landmark glowing with LED lights as it floats above Spa Beach.

"I am very excited," Echelman told the city’s Public Arts Commission during a telephone presentation. The inspiration for her piece with its vivid colors comes from the historic Spa Beach site, its parasols and the colonies of marine life that grow under the pier. She also drew inspiration from the beach and its association with leisure and recreation, the Tampa-born artist said.

Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of [email protected] and an arts commissioner, praised Echelman’s design as "most delicious."

Acquiring an Echelman piece would fulfill Kriseman’s quest to make the 26-acre Pier District into a "world-class" destination. Echelman’s pieces have been installed in such places as the Richmond Olympic Oval in Vancouver, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, and Porto, Portugal.

"The anticipation in getting such a gift would be extraordinary," Jones said.

Under the estimated budget, the billowing sculpture — which will be made from the same material used for astronauts’ spacesuits — will cost $1.5 million. Add to that the cost of the infrastructure to support it, including pylons and lighting, projected to be about $1.3 million. That’s less, however, than an earlier infrastructure estimate and in line with what has been earmarked for the project from tax increment financing, or TIF, funds, requested by Kriseman for the now $76 million Pier District project.

But the Echelman sculpture is still short of money. Kriseman has already raised $650,000 from undisclosed donors to help and the Public Arts Commission said Tuesday that it will dedicate $250,000 to the sculpture. That leaves approximately $600,000 to be raised.

Commission member Laura Bryant told the group not to forget about smaller donors who are willing to pitch in sums in the $1,000 range to make the Echelman project a reality.

Bryant also sits on the pier public art committee that has selected a group of six artists to vie for at least two commissions valued at $488,000 in the Pier District. She and a few friends are committed to donating to the Echelman project, Bryant said.

"Let’s not forget that there are people who want to be part of it," she said.

But Wayne Atherholt, the city’s director of cultural affairs, is looking for money from a "high level."

"With fundraising, the easiest thing is if you can accomplish all of your fundraising goals with one donor," Atherholt said. "So I think I will probably go with Bob Devin Jones and talk to Chris Steinocher (president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce) and I’ll talk with the mayor and see what his thoughts are," he said. "I will certainly be spending my time with donors who more likely than not will give more than $1,000."

He said there is a lot of enthusiasm for an Echelman piece.

"Like any project in any city, there is going to be somebody who doesn’t like it, but in general I think there is enthusiasm for it," he said.

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