GREENSBORO, N.C. – Janet Echelman, an internationally recognized artist whose monumental aerial sculptures have graced skylines from Sydney to San Francisco, Portugal to Amsterdam, will design an iconic sculpture to anchor the new Carolyn and Maurice LeBauer City Park downtown, The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro announced today.
The sculpture – which will be the first permanent Echelman piece of this style in the region – is the result of a $1-million grant by The Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Foundation, which commissioned The Community Foundation’s Public Art Endowment to manage and execute the project.
A committee including Nancy Doll, director of the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Laura Way, director of Greenhill, sculptor Jim Gallucci and Public Art Endowment trustees worked with the Armfield Foundation throughout a six-month artist selection process.
“This is an astounding opportunity for Greensboro,” said Cheryl Stewart, public art consultant for The Public Art Endowment. “We are very excited to be working with Janet and to be able to create a site-specific artwork for LeBauer City Park – at the beginning of the design process. We predict the Armfield sculpture will not only capture the imagination of our community but attract people far and wide who want to see it.”
Echelman’s billowing netted sculptures were ranked No. 1 on Oprah Winfrey’s “List of 50 Things That Make You Say Wow!” The Boston-based artist combines ancient craft with cutting-edge technology to create her monumental artworks that are experiential in nature, “shifting from being an object you look at, to something you can get lost in,” said the artist. She was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces.” Her TED talk, Taking Imagination Seriously, has been translated into 34 languages and has been viewed by more than a million people worldwide.
Echelman sees public art as “a team sport,” and collaborates with a wide range of professionals to bring her sculptures to life, including aeronautical and mechanical engineers, architects, lighting designers, landscape architects, computer scientists, and fabricators. Echelman uses highly engineered fibers which are 15 times stronger than steel pound for pound.
“I’m excited to create an artwork which engages the Greensboro community,” said Echelman, who is scheduled to visit Greensboro again next week for additional meetings with park designers. “I’m inspired by the rich history of textile production and local craftsmanship that orginated here. I envision a contemplative experience that creates a sense of place and draws residents and visitors to spend time in the new park.”
Echelman’s Armfield sculpture promises to provide Greensboro an iconic symbol in much the same way as significant public art does for other cities, such as Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago or Robert Indiana’s LOVE in Philadelphia.
Planning is in full swing for LeBauer Park, a $10-million facility made possible through a bequest by the late Carolyn Weill LeBauer of Greensboro. The sculpture will be a major component of the new park, which will be gifted by The Community Foundation to the city upon its opening, scheduled for March 2016.
Edward M. Armfield, Sr. was a native of Asheboro and lived in Greensboro until his death in 1999. He was the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Armtex, Inc., and Surry Industries, Inc. both textile companies based in Surry County. The foundation that bears his name was established in 1999 to make grants in Surry, Randolph and Guilford counties. While education in Surry County is the primary focus of the Armfield Foundation, additional areas of interest include efforts to enhance parks, recreation and quality of life.
“My husband loved this city and appreciated all of the people who worked with him,” said Adair Armfield, chair of the Armfield Foundation. “It has been our intention all along that this sculpture will honor Ed, his dedicated employees and their families and the textile industry. The type of sculpture that Janet does – and will create for Greensboro – will suggest textiles in a beautiful and abstract manner.”
The Echelman sculpture will be The Public Art Endowment’s first permanent commissioned work of art. Six years ago, The Community Foundation launched The Public Art Endowment to preserve and extend a sense of community in Greensboro by way of significant pieces of public art. The Endowment has overseen the long-term installations of loaned sculptures from such artists as Dennis Oppenheim, Vollis Simpson, James Surls, Evan Lewis and Peter Shire. In 2009, the Endowment presented the city with its first permanent gift, a sculpture by Greensboro-based artist Billy Lee called Guardian II on the grounds of the Old Guilford County Courthouse. This piece was made possible because of a special donation through the Endowment by trustees Richard and Jane Levy of Greensboro.