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City seeking artists to add to ‘new’ Main Library

Bill DeYoung



A rendering of the new lobby space for the Barack Obama Main Library (pre-artwork). Images provided.

After four years of promises, delays and a ballooning budget, it appears the City of St. Petersburg is moving forward with its plans to renovate and re-open the Main Library, which closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Re-named for President Barak Obama in early 2021, the library re-opened for a short period, then was shuttered for previously-planned renovations.

This week, the City issued a public call to artists in the form of a Request For Qualifications (RFQ), announcing the library will re-open in Spring 2025, and that local artists are being sought to create original works for the “new” interior and exterior.

According to the Project Committee, artists are to design, build and install artwork “that would reflect the history of the growth of our city, advances made by our minority residents and the importance of learning and education.”

The $17 million renovation includes a reconfiguration of interior spaces with new programming areas, to encompass science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) programs for children.

Related reading: St. Pete’s Main Library at 60: The next chapter

The $1 million, 40,000-square-foot concrete, stone and glass building opened in February, 1964, and was last remodeled in 2009.

More than 100,000 books and periodicals were removed and safely stored in 2021. A segment of the current renovation budget included removal of significant amounts of carcinogenic asbestos.

Rendering of the back patio, overlooking Lake Jorgensen.

For the library’s interior lobby, the committee is looking for:

2D/3D artwork in mediums such as glass, tile, paint, metal, etc. that will be placed on the wall with dimensions of approximately 38’ x 17’. It’s an L-shaped space.

3D artwork (and may be a free-standing sculpture or a pedestal piece) to be contained in an 8’ x 8’ area.

For the rear exterior (a covered patio overlooking Lake Jorgensen), artwork that will be contained in a 7’ x 7’ area set on top of concrete. “The committee may favor exterior and interior art that compliments or connects to each other,” according to the Call to Artists.

Art may need to be adjusted in tandem with the designing architect.

“Additionally,” the proposal reads, “artists are encouraged to honor the legacy of Barack Obama as the first Black president of the United States. The former president’s name has significance for the city embodying the hopes and aspirations of the city’s young people and the ability to rise despite racism.”

For more information, or to apply, click here.

St. Petersburg’s President Barack Obama Main Library has been closed since early 2020. Renovations on the 60-year-old building continue. Photo (Feb. 15, 2024) by Bill DeYoung.











1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Kevin Cowan

    July 10, 2024at11:08 am

    so how much have we dumped into this place, passed the original estimate of renovation? The constant delay in construction, the overruns on estimates of cost due to remediation of asbestos throughout the building. this city administration and its predecessors are a joke. They have spent the city into deep deep debt with absolutely no concern for the citizens that have been here for decades and their well-being. A constant nonstop discard of their lawful duties to this community. I know My rant will go In one ear and out another in their case. But this cities citizens should be ashamed of what they’ve done to to it.

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