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May 2015 update: See photos of the installed Echelman Sculpture in this post.


The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is building on its reputation for bringing unique public art to the parks with the Echelman floating sculpture set to premier this Spring. The artwork will be suspended by ropes over the Greenway park across from the Intercontinental Hotel. Details of the installation were presented this week at a community meeting held at the Boston Harbor Hotel co-hosted with the Wharf District Council.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Studio Echelman
A night rendering, courtesy of Studio Echelman.

The Echelman sculpture will be revealed this May. Artist Janet Echelman is an award winning artist who has been exhibited around the world but never locally in Boston. According to Jesse Brackenbury, the Executive Director of the Greenway Conservancy, “when it comes to the importance of public art, the Greenway wants to focus on keeping art contemporary and temporary, getting people to come to the parks, and then wanting them to come back to see new attractions.”

Here are 10 things that you will want to know about the Echelman sculpture:

1. Ropes from Nearby Buildings will Suspend the Sculpture

The connecting fiber based rope approximately 2 inches in diameter is used to create a sort of “spider web” network of support. The sculpture will be able to withstand the environment brought during the months of display, and able to withstand heavy winds. The support allows the sculpture to be a “living, breathing” piece of art.

2. LED Lighting is Strategically Placed

Bringing a sculpture of this magnitude to life will not be done with a few simple light fixtures. In fact, getting the full effect calls for 16 light points strategically placed around the area, all contributing to the sculpture in different ways. Utilizing all LED lights, they will be placed in places such as acorn light poles, and pendant light poles to make them less noticeable.

3. The Fiber Materials are Extremely Light and Stronger Than Steel

The sculpture is described as being made by hand-splicing rope and knotting twine into an interconnected mesh of more than a half-million nodes. That means that when any individual element of the sculpture moves, every other element is affected. Enormous in scale and strength but as delicate as lace, the fibers used are 15 times stronger then steel but are extremely lightweight.

4. Artist, Janet Echelman, is From the Boston Area

Echelman is a resident of Brookline and this is her first exhibition in the area. This sculpture was chosen from a pool of almost 100 submissions that were made to the Greenway. Echelman is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and internationally renowned. Her work has been displayed in several major cities around the world. See more about the artist.

5. From May to October of 2015

Installation work will begin in April with a 5-7 week construction phase. An opening ceremony is targeted for May 11th. The sculpture will be on display on the Greenway through October of 2015. Significant target dates:

April 1 – May 1: Attachment point construction on support buildings.
April 27th: Site staging begins, lighting work begins.
May 4-5th: Overnight net (sculpture) hoisting.
May 11th: Target opening of the sculpture.
October: Taken Down.

6. Process of Hoisting the Sculpture

So how does one go about hoisting up an art sculpture that will be suspended 50 feet over major roads, intersections and the park? Contractor ARUP Associates will start hoisting in the early hours of the morning when traffic is low and the entire process to hang the sculpture will only take a few hours to complete. [View video of hoisting process]

Photo credit: Courtesy of Studio Echelman
A glimpse at the magnitude of the sculpture, photo courtesy of Studio Echelman.

7. Location, Location, Location

The sculpture will be suspended over the Greenway parcel near the Intercontinental Hotel. It will be supported by three buildings: 125 High Street, The Intercontinental Hotel, and One International Place.

8. “More Than Just an Art Attraction” – Think Hammocks

With this being such a focal point of the Greenway and such a unique attraction, there is talk of hammocks being placed on the Greenway to help people admire the beauty of the work. Also, as of right now there are a few dozen events being planned around the sculpture for thousands to enjoy.

9. A Touch of Boston in the Sculpture Design

The sculpture’s form echoes the history of its location, with the three voids in the sculpture signifying the “Tri-Mountain” which was razed in the 18th-century to create land from the harbor. The shape of the bottom is based on the typography of the ocean floor in the Boston Harbor. The colored banding is a nod to the six traffic lanes that once overwhelmed the neighborhood until the Big Dig buried them in the tunnel, providing a space for the Greenway.

10. How Can the Greenway Conservancy Afford This?

Funding for the Echelman installation has been competitively fundraised, mostly from private sources. A majority comes from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation, the Lynch Foundation, Autodesk, ArtPlace America and anonymous donors. Also, public arts grants were awarded from the Boston Cultural Council ($3,000), Massachusetts Cultural Council ($2,500), and the National Endowment for the Arts. More funding information.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. 11. The price tag for this big art is in the neighborhood of $1 million. Most of the money is spent on installation and tear down.

    Big art costs big dollars. As a public artist I am quickly learning this correlation.
    I cant wait for this piece to get installed.

    • Nathan Swain, do you have more information to share about the price tag of these kinds of public artworks? Is the cost public?Thanks! Louisa

  2. The sculpture looks like it will be very beautiful. I wish the public had access to any reports that have been done regarding studies on potential impacts on birds. so far my requests for information from the artist and from the greenway conservancy have not been answered.
    PS I am an artist as well as a scientist so I’m interested from both viewpoints.

  3. The 11th thing you might want to know about the Echelman sculpture is that local steel erector Daniel Marr & Son Company, founded in 1898, installed the sculpture utilizing six cranes, numerous aerial lifts and 25 ironworkers. Daniel Marr & Son was partnered with local contractor Shawmut Design and Construction.

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