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St. Pete Pier’s Echelman net sculpture comes partially loose

Bill DeYoung

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A section of artist Janet Echelman's suspended net sculpture 'Bending Arc' came loose from its supports sometime Thursday morning. Photo provided.

Workers at the St. Pete Pier arrived Thursday morning to find a section of artist Janet Echelman’s $1.5 million suspended net sculpture sagging.

Public access to the greenspace underneath “Bending Arc,” which rises 72 feet above the ground, has been temporarily closed off.

Chris Ballestra, Managing Director of Development for the City of St. Petersburg, said the 424-foot-long sculpture came loose from one of its “secondary connectors on the southern end, a non-structural component.”

Representatives from the Cocoa Beach company Net House, which inspects “Bending Arc” annually, visited the site Thursday and provided a forensic report. They’ll begin making repairs as soon as possible.

The frayed connection, Ballestra said, is approximately 12 feet off the ground. “And when they re-do it I’d like to see it a little bit higher. I want to make sure that works for the artist as well. At the end of the day, however, we have a contract, so we can’t violate the art itself.

“Contractually, I do have the right to make repairs. And the company is authorized by Janet herself. So we feel comfortable proceeding.”

Echelman has not yet responded to calls from the City.

For the month of June, the sculpture’s nighttime lighting has been displaying Pride Month colors. The Net House report did not indicate a cause for the partial collapse, although vandalism was ruled out.

High winds, Ballestra said, were not the cause, either (in the four years since its installation, “Bending Arc” has survived all kinds of weather).

“It’s basically a re-connection. There’s a few strands – small connectors – that have broken. And so they’re going to strengthen it, and basically put it back together.

“My goal is to make sure this thing is up before Pride, which is a week from this weekend.”

Echelman is an internationally-renowned artist. Her giant, graceful net-like sculpture, made of colored fibers woven together, are installed in major cities on five continents.

“The title ‘Bending Arc’ is really important to me, and it embraces the goal of the new pier, to welcome everyone – all ages, all backgrounds,” Echelman told the Catalyst in 2020.

“And frankly, if you think about the colors of my sculpture – hues of blue like the sky, in a full gradient from white to black. If you observe carefully, you’ll see that when any single knot moves, all the other knots are affected.

“For me, it becomes a chance to contemplate the inter-connectedness of all of us as members of the human race, and our shared destiny as we interact with nature. We are all inter-woven and braided and knotted together – just like the sculpture.

“The net interacts with the wind, and its ever-changing choreography, and it becomes clear that we are all together in this dance with nature.”

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hugh Hazeltine

    June 16, 2024at4:44 pm

    This “artwork” was paid with private dollars but it dominates a public space. Just a stone’s throw from this location is the mooring field in the Vinoy basin. The field was closed in 2018 for the construction of the pier and six years later it has not reopened because it was overlooked to integrate the field’s dinghy dock ramp to the new seawall. We are a seaside city and many of us feel that seeing a well maintained sailboat on a mooring ball in the Vinoy Basin is a thing of beauty. For all that, the sailboat will pay a small fee to use the ball.

    There are 10 other cities that have a version of this net art. I have visited the one in Greensboro, NC. But I still prefer St. Petersburg because of it’s well thought out waterfront.

  2. Avatar

    Laurie Jensen

    June 15, 2024at9:06 am

    It should be something with shade anyway. A net in this summer heat does nothing.

  3. Avatar

    Rbruce

    June 15, 2024at8:46 am

    Didn’t know Pride Month had a copyright on color names.

  4. Avatar

    Edye Pullums

    June 14, 2024at7:55 pm

    Get rid of it! It’s a horrible piece. Just an embarrassing eyesore for such a beautiful venue.

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