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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 8 months ago

Bend it like Echelman

The renowned artist unveils her design for St. Petersburg's nascent Pier District.

The design for the aerial art installation planned for the St. Petersburg Pier District — a piece that will be created by world-renowned artist Janet Echelman, who lives in Boston but grew up in Tampa — was officially unveiled in late January at Urban Land Institute Tampa Bay’s 2019 Trends Conference.

The $1.3 million sculpture, titled “Bending Arc,” will be 76 feet tall and 428 feet wide when completed in December. To create it, Echelman will use some 84 miles of twine and tie more than 1 million knots.

The presence of the artwork will launch St. Pete’s new Pier into rarefied air. Other locations that have received one of Echelman’s permanent sculptures include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle; Philadelphia City Hall; the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.; and the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. She has also created artwork for public spaces in Shanghai, Beijing, Madrid, Amsterdam and London.

In her appearance at the ULI conference, Echelman explained the title of the piece, saying it’s a reference to a phrase used by Martin Luther King Jr., and stems from her belief that the moral arc of history moves toward justice. She also said the piece, like others before it, is inspired by its setting — specifically the swaying lines that adorn barnacles and seashells found along the St. Pete waterfront.

Echelman has also incorporated patterns inspired by brainwave activity, subway and transit lines and oceanic mapping data, specifically wave height data, into her artwork. Her contributions to urban design worldwide have been lauded by Architectural Digest, the Smithsonian and even the ultimate tastemaker, Oprah Winfrey, who in 2013 ranked Echelman’s work No. 1 on her “List of 50 Things That Make You Say ‘Wow!’”

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