Approximately two to three years ago, the library approached Pinellas County Cultural Affairs to determine the feasibility of obtaining public art. After a formal presentation and much follow-up discussion, the library was approved with a $50,000 grant to secure a piece of public art work. Shortly afterwards a “Call to Artists” was issued. Eventually 105 applications were received.
After a lengthy review by the Public Art Selection Panel, Michael Cain from New Orleans, Louisiana was selected. He has created a series of totem and relief sculptures in front of the library. Titled "Beyond the Blue”, the artwork is based on the artist’s vision of the library as being a place of knowledge and community story telling.
The artist himself tells his story through colorful symbols and images, including the sea, people, birds, books, maritime flags, and lotus flowers. His story depicts “a quest for knowledge”. The main elements of this installation include three totem-pole-like structures. Each totem conveys its own meaning: totem #1 represents the seeds of knowledge, totem #2 (center) pays homage to the essence of community connection, and totem #3 (including the images on the wall behind the totems) refers to the power of the sea to serve as a symbolic repository of knowledge.
In front of the three totems is an open book (metal) that is mounted to a reading stand. The open page reads “Knowledge is the seed of our own creativity, the foundation that strengthens our community and the landmark that guides our course of action”. Michael Cain believes that this is one of the most important aspects of the sculpture. “When we pick up a book and invest the time in reading it, in a way, the book becomes part of us. There is a continual interplay between people and the written word. The reader gets inspired and then becomes the writer, who, in turn, inspires the next reader, and so on. We all place ourselves in context within the stories that we can relate to.”
This artwork can be enjoyed both day and night, as it is illuminated by colorful strips of energy-saving LED lights.
The Public Art Selection Panel which helped guide this project was chaired by architect Steve Klar and included: Susan Gehring, Artist; John Toppe, Architect; Lynn Whitelaw, Director, Leepa-Rattner Museum; Lynn Neff, Artist and Public Art and Design Committee Member; Irene Finger, Community Representative; Nedima Ablakovic, County Public Works and myself.
If you would like to learn more about Pinellas County’s Public Art Program, please contact Pinellas County Cultural Affairs at (727) 453-7860, or visit www.pinellasarts.org. For information about Palm Harbor Library please visit our updated website at www.palmharborlibrary.org.