Landscapers were busy Wednesday morning laying sod in the traffic roundabout at Central Avenue and 11th Street where “The Sun on the EDGE,” a massive sculpture by artist Ilan Averbuch, is to be officially dedicated Thursday.
The towering sun-shaped sculpture was crafted from steel and recycled granite. “The use of industrial materials refers to the industrial history of the EDGE District,” the New York-based Averbuch wrote on his website. “An invisible horizon line is suggested between the granite and steel, where the two meet is where the sun meets its reflection in the water. The work alludes to Florida as the ‘sunshine state,’ and its unique peninsular geography, a state where you can see both the sunrise and the sunset on the water.”
The sculpture, 30 feet high and almost almost as wide, has a primitive, rune-like quality, like a pagan sundial. It was specifically designed and set so as to not block sightlines in the roundabout.
“This originated from the district itself, their planning process,” said City Director of Cultural Affairs Director Wayne Atherholt, “and what to do with infrastructure – signage, benches, bus stops, all of the various things a district might be looking at.”
Averbuch was paid $199,000 from the district’s Intown West Tax Increment Fund; the city built the sculpture’s base, and installed art lighting (and the new grass).
Barbara Voglewede, executive director of the EDGE District Association, was on the selection committee that reviewed submissions from interested artists; the committee included EDGE residents and business owners, artists and members of the city’s Public Arts Commission (including Atherholt).
“We had identified criteria in our RFQ (Request for Qualifications) that really related to the public audience that history we have, as sort of the industrial genesis for the city of St. Pete,” Voglewede said.
“We’re really the origin of the city of St. Pete, and provided a lot of the industrial materials for the building of the rest of the city. So the concept that Mr. Averbuch supplied really spoke to us.”
Beyond that, she added, “it was unlike anything else we saw. It’s very atypical. And it’s a conversation starter. It’s supposed to be provocative, and I think it really is provocative in terms of getting people to do what we want with public art. Which is to think about it, and think about what its significance is.”
Similar district-funded projects, including murals, have been appearing in other St. Pete neighborhoods lately, Atherholt pointed out, including Roser Park and Mirror Lake. “There’s any number of ways art can appear in a district of neighborhood,” he said.
“It’s nice that you’re starting to see the larger and more iconic – although I hate to use that word too often – pieces that are anchors, if you will. And seeing that start to spread out, throughout the city. That was one of our goals.
“It’s certainly not in every single neighborhood, but there’s art now in quite a few. There’s very few places you can go without seeing art.”
Ribbon-cutting for “The Sun on the EDGE” is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Mayor Rick Kriseman, artist Ilan Averbuch, Voglewede, Atherholt and other members of the selection committee will be in attendance.