You may not yet be familiar with the name Janet Echelman, but the world is already familiar with her intricate environments, created by gorgeous, oversized fishing net-inspired art installations. From “Impatient Optimist,” her most recent piece in Seattle, to pieces throughout Europe and her “Bellbottom Series” in India during her time as a Fulbright Scholar and beyond, Janet’s pieces typically hang between buildings to hover high overhead, creating living, breathing spaces.
For the first time this year, her hometown of Boston will play host to one of these magical pieces from May through October. This still-to-be-named installation will create a sacred space on the Rose Kennedy Greenway by bringing life to the park in a way that hasn’t fully been activated since its founding in 2008. While the Greenway has housed an array of sculptural work, murals, top-notch food-truck festivals and more, this will be the first piece of this scale to live high above the green space for almost half a year. Lucas Cowan, the new Greenway public art curator, is excited to see this opportunity come to life as his first major project, which he says is “overdue for a city of Boston’s caliber.”
Lucas came to Boston after serving as director of public art programs for the Maryland State Arts Council and tenure as senior curator of exhibits at Chicago’s famous Millennium Park. “Our top priority is to figure out the logistics of hanging such a massive work, working with developers and architects,” Lucas told me. This is an important reminder that changes to the face of public art in the city start with the logistics—implemented by the experience and vision that Lucas brings and the imagination and skill that Janet brings to transform the space.
While Janet’s pieces do not outwardly have a Jewish story, Janet is a Brookline-based Jewish artist who is proud to support “the mission of contemporary Jewish creative expression.”
The New Center NOW Art Circle, headed up by art history maven and experienced curator Joanna Rothman, will play a role in promoting this larger-than-life Greenway visitor. While plans are not yet set, stay posted for a Jewishly-inspired tour and gathering surrounding this work later this year.
If the snow and cold has you feeling uninspired, I encourage you to watch Janet’s TED talk, “Taking Imagination Seriously,” for a dose of inspiration. It’s so popular globally that it’s been translated into 33 languages!