"Bending Arc" is a stunning tribute to the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Echelman.

By Andrea Romano
July 29, 2020

A new, permanent sculpture in the Pier District in St. Petersburg, Florida, isn’t just beautiful to look at, it also bears an important message.

According to Dezeen, American artist Janet Echelman has installed a beautiful, woven sculpture made out of blue and white fibers called "Bending Arc." The piece was meticulously created in honor of the American Civil Rights movement.

Credit: Amy Martz/Courtesy of Janet Echelman

“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,” Echelman told Dezeen.

“The title "Bending Arc" is important to me, and it embraces the goal of the new pier to welcome everyone – all ages, all backgrounds,” she added. She named the piece after a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., that says, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The woven piece is made out of “ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fiber,” Dezeen reported. Over one million knots were made in order to weave the structure together into its geometric design, which consists of over 180 miles of fiber. It measures 72 feet tall and 424 feet wide, overlooking a grassy park in the Pier District, according to Dezeen, where many people protested segregation during the 1950s, eventually leading to the Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation at the local municipal beach and swimming pool in 1957.

Echelman was inspired by the blue tones of beach umbrellas as an inspiration for the design. Because it’s made of fabric fibers, the sculpture wafts in the breeze, changing shape constantly. At night, pink LED lights are projected onto the piece to give it a distinct glow, according to Dezeen.

Credit: Joe Sale/Courtesy of Janet Echelman

“My hope is that each person becomes aware of their own sensory experience in that moment of discovery, and that may lead to the creation of your own meaning or narrative,” Echelman told Dezeen. “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.”

Echelman has installed similar woven sculptures in cities across the globe, including in Madrid's Plaza Mayor and London’s Oxford Circus, according to Dezeen.