A new public art project from Creative Pinellas will expand the definitions of the words “public” and “art.”
It doesn’t have a proper name yet, but the essentials are in place: A traveling, interactive exhibit will move, over weeks, months and perhaps even years, between different communities within the county.
Forty proposals were received when the Creative Pinellas-established panel issued a call. The panel – consisting of leaders from the business and arts communities – chose five and requested fully descriptive renderings, mock-ups and thoroughly fleshed-out proposals.
“The panel met quite a number of times to come to a consensus of what this project should be, in terms of goals, objectives and criteria,” explains executive director Barbra St. Clair. “We did not want to tell the artists in advance ‘Oh, this should be a sculpture’ or whatever. We wanted to really tap into the creative problem-solving ability that artists have, and let them come up with what the answers to the questions would be.”
The only directives: The piece shall be interactive, generating community engagement and community spirit, and encouraging public interest in the arts.
The Pinellas County Commission awarded Creative Pinellas grant monies of $325,000 for the endeavor; it came from the funds paid out by BP after the environmentally-devastating Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010.
The five winning submissions are, by turn, educational, informative, challenging, provocative and fun. Some involve live performance, while others embrace technology. Many of the names are familiar from St. Pete’s vibrant arts scene.
Detailed summaries, with artwork, diagrams and more, are available for public perusal and comment (through Dec. 9) at Oldsmar Public Library, Largo Central Park Performing Arts Center, Leepa Rattner Museum of Art, Pier 60 Park, Dunedin Community Center and Lealman Community Center.
Public comments will help inform the choice of the panel, which will watch demonstrations from all five artists on Monday, before making recommendation to the Creative Pinellas board. “The public’s thoughts will help the artists to know what’s important to the community where their work is going to be,” St. Clair says.
In turn, the board will present its choice at the Jan. 8 Commission meeting. If all goes according to plan, the winning entry will be built out and mobile by April. Nine sites across the county have been secured; more are likely.
“Each time we put it somewhere, we’ll engage the community there and we’ll have ancillary activities – dance, poetry, music,” offers St. Clair. “And then when it’s time to leave we’ll have a bon voyage celebration. We’ll build community engagement into this traveling project.
“The Board of County Commissioners thought that was interesting enough to support us moving forward.”
Carrie Boucher, Bridget Elmer and Mitzi Gordon: SpaceCraft
Artists’ description: The project will repurpose two full-size cargo shipping containers into a modular network of creative, interactive spaces that feature programming on the themes of Make/Play and Read/Grow. SPACEcraft will reflect and respond to each community it visits, tailoring experience to each location with support from local teachers, artists and more.
How does this connect to Pinellas County? By repurposing locally sourced shipping containers, the project takes products of modern consumption and turns them into creative spaces. The containers will also harvest rainwater and run on solar power, allowing the variety of resources that Pinellas County offers to shift how the people can see both spaces and themselves.
Kate Helms: Rise Pinellas
Artist’s description: To generate awareness about sea level rise, force participants to consider actions that may help Pinellas County endure, and present an engaging experience.
The artist wants to re-create the wonder of diving amongst Florida’s reefs and seeing a whole, thriving ecosystem. The project will be a tiny house on a trailer, accessible with ramps, with the furnished interior transformed into a reef. As the tiny house moves to new locations over the course of two years, additional details and reef will be added, so the experience evolves and continually transforms the ecosystem into a richly inhabited one.
How does this connect to Pinellas County? Pinellas County already has a number of artificial reefs offshore, and Rise Pinellas will be an abstract addition to those reefs, working on land as a source of fun and a call to action to think about our impact on the waters and life around us.
Kenny Jensen, Roxanne Fay and Sheila Cowley: Cosmic Pinellas
Artists’ description: To help people realize that Pinellas County and the larger world are formed from many individuals connected underneath the surface, like the roots of mangrove trees.
Colorful sculptures shaped from discarded tree limbs becomes a forest to explore. Beneath your feet is a steel network in the shape of Pinellas. Look up, and stars are lit by sunlight. Peer inside to see the inner workings of our bodies or the farthest reaches of the cosmos. The artwork is also a stage, where actors, dancers and musicians weave a cosmic web in a humorous short work by Sheila Cowley. Visitors can write a one-sentence story, that Kenny Jensen paints onto the sculptures and Roxanne Fay and Adam Randall use to tell our collective story.
How does this connect to Pinellas County? Each sculpture represents a community on the county map, connected to make a whole. Like the roots that connect mangrove forests, crucial to our coastal ecosystem, this artwork is a collaboration that links 15 local artists with the people of Pinellas. You bring this artwork to life with stories about what you love about our shared home. The more people that visit and engage with the work, the more it grows and flourishes.
Ya La’ford: The APEX
Artist’s description: Working as an homage to Pinellas County’s past, its present strides and its promising possibilities, the project would include a large geo-station and obelisk with multimedia exterior walls — blue LED lights illuminate ethereal movement and a flexible LED screen with interactive sound, video and films. Visitors can walk through the core of the piece and see an intersection of art and technology that also educates through user-activated exhibits.
How does this connect to Pinellas County? The project aims to discover and share the beauty of a shared Pinellas connection in hope of helping us embrace each other and our relationship to the natural world.
Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse: Welcome Pinellas
Artists’ description: The piece consists of an illuminated A-frame structure that, on both sides, will have the word “WELCOME.” Visitors exit the A-frame into a circular space, with brightly colored benches shaped as letters to spell out “PINELLAS.” This circular space invites people to linger and engage with the space to sit, commune with the place, and even use it as a performance space for dance, poetry, music, story-telling and more to enhance the Welcome energy.
How does this connect to Pinellas County? This piece intends to make it clear that Pinellas County is committed to making art present in the entire county and using it to bring our communities together.