Photo: Photo: City of St. Petersburg

New Immense Aerial Sculpture Honors the Civil Rights Movement in Florida

News Art + Architecture Activism
by Eben Diskin Jul 27, 2020

The past few months have seen many monuments taken down in the name of racial justice and support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, world-renowned artist Janet Echelman is erecting a new piece of art dedicated to the civil rights movement.

The woven sculpture is composed of 180 miles of twine and 1,662,528 knots, and it’s taking center stage in a park overlooking the Pier District in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 72-foot-tall, 424-foot-long piece constantly changes with the movement of the wind, and its colors and patterns are inspired by the old-fashioned blue- and white-striped beach umbrellas and the colonies of barnacles growing on the underside of the waterfront pier.

The sculpture is located at a site where local citizens had protested segregation in the 1950s, leading to a significant Supreme Court ruling in 1957 that allowed all citizens, regardless of skin color, to use the municipal beach and swimming pool. According to Echelman, the title of the piece, “Bending Arc,” is in reference to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Echelman told Dezeen, “I wanted to celebrate the courage of the people whose work led to the freedom and inclusion we can all experience today at the new pier. The title Bending Arc is important to me, and it embraces the goal of the new pier to welcome everyone — all ages, all backgrounds. The colours of my sculpture reflect this — hues of blue like the sky in a full gradient from white to black.”

Woven sculpture in St Petersburg Florida at night

Photo: Joe Sale

At night, the piece is transformed into a bright pink and purple fiber cloud as LED lights project colors across the sculpture.

According to Echelman, “When I look at the sculpture, I see a physical proof of humankind’s ability to work together in shaping our physical world — and to ‘bend the moral arc of the universe.’ It’s a reminder of our interconnectedness on every scale.”

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