Where We Met looms above new LeBauer Park in Downtown Greensboro

by Rich Lewis

Sunday evening, August 14 th , the stunning new art installation Where We Met was officially lit, bringing the opening of the new Carolyn and Maurice LeBauer Park to its summit in downtown Greensboro. Hanging above a wide lawn, the mesh netting sculpture is a brilliant visual aspect to the park and a definite nod to the history of Greensboro and the surrounding region.

Created by renowned artist Janet Echelman, the sculpture uses fibers that have been braided with an ultra high molecular weight polyethylene that gives strength while retaining the natural flow and drape of netting. The netting is suspended from a framework that holds much of the story itself.

“The Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Foundation provided the money to start this project,” Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro Vice President of Marketing and Communications Lynn Wooten said. “When Janet (Echelman) found out that the Armfields had made their money in textiles she wanted to bring that in. She really wanted to honor the textile industry here, not just the manufacturers but also the workers and their families that helped to make this city.”

She took the idea that Greensboro is known as the Gate City and worked out from there, noticing how six rail lines fed into Greensboro and the mills that kept everyone working. The map of those interconnected suppliers, mills and factories became the overhead frame portion of the sculpture. Where We Met therefore becomes not just a title but a statement of how the city and so much of what it holds came to be.

Overall, the sculpture is a huge installation. Supported from nearly 60-foot tall pylons, the overall size of the art is 200 feet by 130 feet. The net alone is 90 feet by 65 feet and its folds drape to a depth of 21 feet, hanging well above the viewers’ heads. Each of the support pylons also includes multi-colored lighting that will bring the sculpture to life each evening as a second act to the day’s appearance.

“It took a couple of years to bring this piece together here,” Wooten said. “It’s really amazing the amount of planning and engineering that went into this.”

The masts are rated to hold up to six tons of force, to support not just the piece but to keep it safe and sturdy in whatever weather conditions it might run into. While the netting might look gossamer and light to the casual eye, the fibers used in the project are actually 15 times stronger than steel by weight. The stunning colors will also be around for a very, very long time as the material is 100 percent UV-resistant, creating a colorfast installation that should be just as pretty for years down the road.

Overall, there are some 35 miles of the technical fibers woven into the sculpture. More than 242,800 knots make up the net giving it both heft and shape, allowing it to ebb and flow with the breezes and life around it.

While the sculpture is exceptionally strong, there are some precautions that have been taken in consideration of our rather unique winter weather conditions.

Our propensity for freezing rain and ice storms in the Carolinas means that each winter the sculpture will be lowered, removed and stored away until warmer weather comes back in the spring.

The sculpture was paid for with a $1 million grant from the Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Foundation. The Foundation has commissioned the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to maintain and manage the project.

LeBauer Park, located in Downtown Greensboro encompasses over four acres of public space and features gardens, children’s play areas, performance venues, a dog park and other attractions. It was funded by a $10 million bequest in 2012 from Carolyn Weill LeBauer. Construction began after a November 2014 groundbreaking. !

RICH LEWIS is a father, husband, writer and cook who makes his home in Greensboro, NC.