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Love it or hate it, the Pier has been quite the muse

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Saintpetersblog reported earlier this month on two oddly familiar pieces of artwork. One, drawn more than 30 years ago, showed the Pier first with a tornado touching down on its rooftop and then, in another, with an alien space craft above it.

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More recently, pro-Destination St. Pete Pier groups and supporters have been posting a graphic depicting the Pier as some sort of robotic creature with long legs shooting lasers at visitors.

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As this reporter pointed out in previous reports, that photo seemed counterproductive to the point those groups were trying to make. Why use a terrifying image of a Pier causing destruction and mayhem as a way to support the goal of saving the inverted pyramid? That image seems to suggest quite the opposite.

There’s a reason for that. The image, originally designed by local artist John Vitale, had been used by Lens supporters in 2013. The image was superimposed with the heading “BETTER DEMOLISH IT before this happens to you.”

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The Lens was a previous design chosen by the city to replace the inverted pyramid. But it was labeled as many things by critics — a toilet bowl, sidewalk to nowhere — and ultimately voted down.

Now the city is moving forward with a new plan to demolish the current Pier, but instead of supporters of Pier Park using the image to encourage bringing out the wrecking ball, it’s being used, questionably, by the other side. Interesting turn of events.

But this dueling artwork raises another interesting point — the Pier has been the focal point of lots of artwork. So much so that in March of 2013, in the wake of the city’s plans to demolish the inverted pyramid, Pier activist Scott Bitterli created a closed Facebook group called “The Art that Saved the Pier.”

His mission was to “cover the city with Pier-related artwork” because “the power of art unite.”

Since then, the nearly 150 members of the group have collectively posted dozens of photos, paintings and drawings of or relating to the Pier. Some are just images of the Pier itself, others are a little more on the wacky side.

For example, there’s an image of a hand-drawn Pier turned into a three-second video. It shows the shadow of a gorilla fighting off helicopters surrounding the iconic structure. Presumably this was created to symbolize the city’s efforts to demolish the Pier and the gorilla was representative of groups trying to save it.

Another photo in the stream shows an image of the Pier lit up by multiple colored lights being held up by several hands.

Another interesting photo not on that Facebook page shows a drawing of Salvador Dali wearing a rather gangster-looking necklace with the inverted pyramid as its main charm.

Dali Pier

Local artists have used the Pier as a muse for various paintings listed on Etsy, including one by an unknown artist listed for $150. It’s an oil painting of the Pier with an impressionist twist.

Another print by Christ MacCormack shows a man fishing overlooking the Pier. The artist writes in her description, “this is one of my fishing spots with a beautiful view.”

Chris MacCormack

Artist Kristy Cannon Key has an original painting listed for $350. It’s the Pier at sunset with the lights from the Pier and approach and the setting sun reflected in the water.

Pier painting

The Facebook page created in 2013 was obviously set up as a means to save the inverted pyramid. It was intended to show value in the structure.

That argument can continue to be made.

However, for those supporting the city’s chosen design, Pier Park, and its reinvention of the Pier, an alternative argument can also be made.

Whether the inverted pyramid is saved or not, those pieces of art won’t go anywhere. And, if Pier Park is erected, a new muse will be born for the artists of St. Pete.

Either way, St. Pete loves the arts.


Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]

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