Jun 5, 2023 - News

The story behind High Street's new sky-high art

The red and blue "Current" sculpture, made of twine, hangs across the intersection of High and Gay streets

"Current" hangs at the downtown intersection of Gay and High streets. Photo: Courtesy of Infinite Impact

Columbus' newest public artwork has a contemporary look, but is inspired by 150 years of local history.

Driving the news: The massive twine sculpture "Current" by Janet Echelman is now hanging over the downtown intersection of Gay and High streets.

  • It took years to design and create but just a single morning to install.

Why it matters: The statement piece is intended to attract curious onlookers to a burgeoning retail, arts and residential district just west of the Statehouse.

State of play: The name "Current" references the flow of water in nearby Scioto River and the electricity from illuminated archways that date to the 1880s.

  • The blue-and-red piece represents water and earth, though Echelman says its unintended use of political parties' colors might point to the "tapestry" of diverse views in society.
  • It's similar in look to other Echelman pieces, but is the first to be permanently displayed over a roadway — which she hopes will inspire other cities to do the same.

By the numbers: "Current" is 126 feet tall, stretches 229 feet wide and comprises 78 miles of twine woven into over 500,000 handmade knots.

  • At night, 51 lights attached to nearby buildings augment the piece with shifting tones to match seasons and holidays.

What they're saying: "I think it's pretty breathtaking," Mayor Andrew Ginther told Axios while taking in the work from a nearby viewing deck.

  • He hopes the piece will bring people together and showcase that downtown is a welcoming space to be enjoyed by all.
  • Jeff Edwards, a real estate developer who funded the work's undisclosed design and installation cost, called "Current" another step toward making Gay Street a premier arts district.
A view of "Current" from above
A bird's-eye view of "Current."

The intrigue: The piece is surprisingly free-flowing considering its size, but don't underestimate the sturdy material.

  • The high-strength fiber is 15-times stronger than steel, Echelman says, and is designed to withstand hurricane-strength winds.
  • The artist also works with environmental engineers to ensure her sculptures are safe for passing birds.

What's next: The Greater Columbus Art Council is seeking public input on a plan to guide future public art projects, with a survey launching Friday — coinciding with this weekend's Arts Festival.

💭 Tyler's thought bubble: Renderings and photos don't do this piece justice. It's something you need to see in person.

  • Whether it "speaks to you" or not, I think you'll find the colorful work thought-provoking and unique.
A view of "Current" from Gay Street
A pedestrian's view of "Current" from Gay Street.
A view of "Current" at eye level
An eye-level view of "Current," which flows with the direction of the wind.
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