Private donors step up for St. Pete Pier sculpture

The city of St. Petersburg is hoping to bring in a world-renowned artist to create a sculpture to make the new pier pop.

Until now, the fight has been how to pay for the massive hanging rope sculptures.

Wayne Athernolt, with St. Pete’s Cultural Affairs Office, says the artwork designed by sculptor Janet Echelman would allow St. Pete to join cities like London and Boston, which feature her work.

Athernolt says the signature art piece would be one of the most significant displays of public art in Florida.

“It says St. Petersburg is ready to play on the world market in terms of art,” Athernolt said.

There had been a controversy between Mayor Rick Kriseman and members of City Council over the $2.5-million price tag, but some private donors are stepping in and helping foot almost half of the bill.  That was enough to get council member Steve Kornell onboard.

“The only way I would say no is if the donations didn’t come through,” Kornell told FOX 13 Tuesday.

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A little less than half of the money needed for the design would come from private donors. The rest of the sculpture would be funded through St. Pete’s Art Council and money the city gets from the county.

Athernolt says the county money is specifically required to be spent on infrastructure projects like the Echelman piece.

“Somebody who is complaining about potholes in the Old Northeast, [the money] can’t be used for that,” Athernolt said.

Echelman is from St. Pete and her mom still lives there. Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted pictures while visiting her studio in Boston.

The city just completed a study to engineer the sculpture with the size of the pier. The study also indicates it wouldn’t pose a threat to wildlife.