Fiber artist Janet Echelman has named the aerial net sculpture she is developing for the St. Pete Pier District “Bending Arc” to recognize the inclusivity she sees in the city.
Echelman unveiled the name and new renderings at the Urban Land Institute’s Trends Conference in Tampa Wednesday.
The name comes from a quote by a 19th century Unitarian minister, Rev. Theodore Parker, whose reference to the moral arc of the universe bending toward justice was later adopted by Dr. Martin Luther King. She said it reflects her belief that her art is inclusive and should bring people together.
“The spirit of this Pier Park is about including everyone, all ages, all walks of life. This is a space for everyone to enjoy,” said Echelman, a Tampa native whose installations have appeared around the world.
The St. Pete Pier piece is her largest work to date. It will be 76 feet tall at its highest point, and 428 feet wide at its widest point. It will use more than 84 miles of twine and 1,067,212 knots. There’s private funding for the $1.3 million cost of the sculpture, with the city of St. Pete paying for infrastructure costs as part of the Pier construction. It’s scheduled to be complete in December.
She’s recommended that landscape architects also install hammocks around the sculpture, similar to her work in Boston, where people lie in the grass and watch her sculpture ripple in the wind overhead.
“My work is about a responsive relationship with wind and sun and water. We are part of that evolving changing environment. When you’re lying down underneath the sculpture, you are part of it too. It’s a moment in our lives to slow down, to contemplate and enjoy,” she said.
Echelman uses space-age fibers, coated with the same material used for astronauts’ space suits, and designed to withstand the degradation that can be caused by exposure to ultraviolet light. The fiber is extruded with color that won’t wear off. It’s loomed on machines, then hand-knotted and hand-spliced to create the form.
She’s worked with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission to ensure safety for wildlife and birds, and the piece is engineered to withstand the strongest hurricanes.
“There’s a been sculpture on the waterfront in Portugal up for 14 years, and it’s so exciting to watch it in a storm. They are designed for these kinds of weather,” she said.
The St. Petersburg City Council is scheduled to hear an update on Pier construction at its Feb. 7 meeting. If the council approves the timing and cost recommendations in the report, Echelman said she’s ready to get to work.
“As soon as the city council has their vote, our fibers will be ordered the next morning,” she said.