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Janet Echelman’s ‘IMPATIENT OPTIMIST’ Aerial Sculpture Unveiled at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Seattle Campus

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

SEATTLE (February 10, 2015) — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today unveiled an outdoor aerial sculpture on its Seattle campus by the American artist Janet Echelman titled “Impatient Optimist.” 

Visible from within the foundation’s campus and from several vantage points in the surrounding area, the piece is created by suspending a custom crafted net sculpture between two of the foundation’s buildings over the courtyard. The effect is that of a floating voluminous form without obvious means of support. Composed of ultra-lightweight fibers, the sculpture creates an ephemeral presence in the Seattle sky.

During the day, the sculpture’s hues interplay with the changing colors of sky. At night, it becomes an illuminated beacon as colored lighting sequences are projected in real time as the sun rises in each of the foundation’s global offices. This connects the work happening in the campus to the tangible services being delivered to people around the world. The sculpture is a physical manifestation of connectedness. The number of knots alludes to the notion that the work of a single foundation member can affect a million lives.

The sculpture is visible to the public at all times from the campus overlook, as well as from several vantage points nearby.

About the Artist
Janet Echelman builds living, breathing sculpture environments that respond to the forces of nature — wind, water and light — and become inviting focal points for civic life. Exploring the potential of unlikely materials, from fishing net to atomized water particles, Echelman combines ancient craft with cutting-edge technology to create her permanent sculpture at the scale of buildings. Experiential in nature, the result is sculpture that shifts from being an object you look at, to something you can get lost in.

Recent prominent works include: “Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks,” a 745-ft sculpture that premiered at the 2014 TED Conference “Her Secret is Patience” spanning two city blocks in downtown Phoenix, “Water Sky Garden,” a commission for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, “She Changes” on the waterfront in Porto, Portugal, and “Every Beating Second” in San Francisco Airport’s new Terminal Two.

Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Echelman 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 with more than one million views. She recently received the 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts, honoring “the greatest innovators in America today.”

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.


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