Thursday night was the Edmonds Arts Commission’s first look at three project proposals for the future Five Corners Roundabout. Out of 22 submitted applications, the jury invited CJ Rench, Julie Berger, and Stuart Nakamura to create models for the 21-foot roundabout. About 10 members of the public observed the presentations and jury reactions, and we were invited to give our input at the end of the process. By Friday morning, the jury will have selected one of these proposals to recommend to City Council. The final decision will be made in a public hearing at a City Council meeting, when the Mayor and City Council give their required approval for the large piece of public art.
Before I go into the details of Thursday night’s presentations, check out all there is to do this weekend while we eagerly await the jury’s recommendation…
Friday night – Red Petal Tunes and a live band at the Corner Bar & Café in Perrinville
Saturday – music at the market, and a refresher course in humanity at the Edmonds Bookshop at noon: Robert Taylor speaks about his book, “A New Way to be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive”
Saturday night – Waldo Pub Crawl! Leaves from the Edmonds Bookshop at 8:30 p.m. Trivia, a poetry slam, free-flowing booze, and lots to look for all night long!
Sunday – Gypsy Soul at 3 p.m. in City Park
And later in the week:
On Tuesday, Roberto the Magnificent’s Crazy Comedy Stunt Show blazes through Hazel Miller Plaza at noon.
The Thursday evening Happy Hour show in Hazel Miller Plaza features Bill Anschell, Brent Jensen, and Chris Symer playing Anschell’s compositions on jazz piano. Anschell’s music has been played on two of mine and my dad’s favorite TV shows – “The West Wing” and “The Wire”
Call to Artists
The Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation is now accepting submissions for the 2014 Arts Festival Poster Artist. Application should include a letter of interest, five small printed samples of previous artwork, and a resume. The selected artist will be paid $1,500 and will reserve the rights to all work created for the festival. Mail submissions by the Aug.15 deadline to:
Poster Committee, Edmonds Arts Festival
P.O. Box 212
Edmonds, WA 98020
Now, to the roundabout…
The selection committee for the 5 Corners Roundabout project includes City of Edmonds Engineering Technician JoAnne Zulauf; Kristiana Johnson of City Council; Marni Muir and Frances Chapin of the Arts Commission; Billie Swengel, a Five Corners business proprietor; and Mary Pat Byrne, a visiting arts professional. The city decided that a visual obstruction in the new roundabout would be necessary for drivers learning how to navigate the intersection. Blocking the view of cars entering at the other side of the roundabout will ease anxiety about entering, and will promote continuous traffic flow from all five sides. Artists were instructed to design within state highway safety requirements, to make a piece that will last a long time with minimal maintenance, that will resist vandalism, will reflect the spirit of the neighborhood and “its role as a gateway to the larger community,” and most important, that won’t distract drivers by calling too much attention to the center of the traffic circle. With those guidelines, the project sounds kind of boring, but the three designs we saw Thursday were completely distinct, and any of the three would have an enormous effect on the character of Five Corners.
Each artist chose a different aspect of the project to focus on while designing a proposal. Rench, who runs a studio in Hood River, Ore. that erects large public art pieces all over the country, wanted to literally tie the community together using our connection to the Sound as his theme. Berger was more focused on the problem of traffic flow in the city’s first true roundabout, and, also inspired by our connection to the water, created a piece that drivers will instinctively want to drive around. Nakamura chose to go with a subtler suggestion of five-point rotational symmetry, naming his piece after the roundel, a circular medieval dance, and using heavy symbolism to highlight Edmonds’ past and present.
Rench and his head welder, Wit, noticed that in Edmonds, all roads eventually lead back to our water. They designed a sort of monument to the Sound, with the inner stainless steel monolith representing the water and the rusty pilings showing aspects of our community bound to the Sound with five steel cables. The 13-foot stainless steel center has a blue glass ceiling, which will be illuminated, connecting Sound to sky. While the seasons change the colors in the rusty patina on the outer pilings, the center will remain the gem of Edmonds. When asked how he would keep the nearby high school students from climbing the structure, Rench joked that, ironically, he is currently working with Red Bull to design the world’s first skate-able sculpture in Jefferson Park in Seattle—but he would leave us with a stainless steel cleaner that is greasy enough to deter opportunistic climbers.
Berger, who has brought a glass and steel forest back to Burien, and a concrete creek to Mill Creek, said she always bases her designs on a narrative. If there isn’t a story to tell, she’s not interested in illustrating it. She laid her process out for us—how she moved from thinking about the conundrum of a traffic circle to echolocation is a somewhat tenuous chain of events, but is the perfect example of an artist at work. Berger proposed that a traffic circle creates a kind of micro-community, where the only way around it is to have the courage to cooperate with fellow drivers. She likened this idea to a pod of Orcas using echolocation to circle their prey. From there, she came up with her design: a ripple made of 5-inch powder-coated steel pipes set 5 inches apart around the top of the mounded traffic circle. It is a dynamic piece, where the motion and lights of the cars suggests both water and sound waves. She would light it strategically from the inside in reference to the five corners, and imagines the sculpture to be especially powerful on a rainy night. While the jury was concerned about the possibility of a strobe effect that might distract drivers, Berger said that the powder-coat finish on the pipes will have a very soft reflection that shouldn’t catch the eyes of drivers, but that she would be willing to experiment with different finishes to ensure that this would not happen. When it was time for public comments, one woman remarked that, “when [Berger] turned the model, it was magical,” and said that she could see herself “going up there at night just to drive around and around and around…”
Nakamura likes to focus his public art on community connection to the local environment. For one of his past pieces in a housing project, he invited the kids to help him with mosaic inlays, and had the parents contribute some of their favorite words of wisdom to be engraved on the base. For a medical center, he took inspiration from the adjacent marsh plants, responsible for cleaning the water and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. For the Five Corners project, Nakamura proposed a five-pointed accent to the landscaped mound with birds swooping out toward each corner. The five pieces of the sculpture will be made out of either galvanized or abraded stainless steel, depending on the size. Nakamura’s model showed the pieces at 11 inches at their lowest point, and 5 feet at their highest, though the jury seemed to want something a bit larger. Nakamura said he would be flexible with the design and making it larger would be entirely possible with the cheaper stainless steel. He will place medallions around the street-level cement barrier celebrating Edmonds’ cultural heritage.
Based on the 30-minute presentations, the jury can choose to recommend one of the sculptures for consideration by City Council, or can reject all three and start the process over again. Whichever of the pieces the committee selects to move forward in the process, I have confidence that it will be a beautiful and functional addition to our town. And I can’t wait until that s***show of an intersection is replaced with the more elegant roundabout!
— By Juliet Brewster
Artfully Edmonds columnist Juliet Brewster, an Edmonds native and Edmonds-Woodway High School graduate, has a degree in literature from Bennington College. To have your arts happening listed, email her at email@example.com.