How do you demonstrate community support for public art when a small but vocal contingent is very much against it?
The St. Petersburg City Council’s approval was needed for a Janet Echelman outdoor sculpture planned for St. Petersburg’s downtown Pier district. But, as the vote approached, a relatively small but vocal contingent protested the art and its location.
B2 Communications worked with a diverse group of residents who believed the sculpture would be a major asset to the city and found ways to show the community’s support. It also constantly kept City Council and news media informed of the facts about the sculpture.
B2 reached out to numerous arts organizations and their members, asking them to send emails expressing their support for the art to City Council, and several hundred letters and emails were sent.
Some of the residents against the project voiced concerns that birds might become tangled in the sculpture, and that it could blow away and cause damage during a hurricane. B2 scheduled numerous meetings for supporters to talk with City Council members and alleviate their concerns while providing examples of the artist’s work elsewhere around the world that did not have any such issues.
Since many proponents could not leave work or young children for multiple hours to attend the City Council meeting, B2 created a video with more than a dozen people of all ages and backgrounds talking about why they were in favor of the sculpture. The video was shown at City Council, tied to a number of supporters coming in person to voice their support.
B2 also worked with the St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association on a well-attended public forum for proponents and opponents to discuss their views.
Led by City Council member Gina Driscoll, the City worked with the St. Petersburg Waterfront Parks Foundation’s Phil Graham and planners to pick a different location for the art in the Pier District. This compromise was critical for success, along with efforts by proponents in dispelling misinformation about the sculpture. The result: City Council voted to approve the project.