Updated Monday night with additional details.
Sunday morning, walkers strolling Brackett’s Landing park were greeted with what many found to be a shocking sight — the much-beloved driftwood Orca sculpture by local artist John Hurley had been defaced by a graffiti artist, who’d added his “tag” in bright silver paint to the dorsal fin. The same graffiti tag in the same paint color was also found on an adjacent picnic table.
Later that same day, Salish Sea Brewing owner Jeff Barnett and his 6-year-old son Evan came across the sculpture and attempted to clean up the dorsal fin. “We used a Mr. Clean “Magic Eraser,” water and a little bit of elbow grease,” Barnett said.
We initially reported cleanup was completed by an unidentified Good Samaritan, but readers tipped us off that the work was done by the Barnetts.
“This was not for glory or credit,” Jeff Barnett said. “I used it as a learning lesson for myself and my son.”
A bit of the silver paint residue remains, and Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite said the city will be contacting John Hurley to repaint and complete repairs on the Orca.
The much-loved Orca has been a fixture at Brackett’s Landing since 1994. The backdrop for thousands of photos of families, children and scenery, it is arguably among the most photographed, popular and yes, loved, pieces of public art in the city.
Just how loved became apparent four years ago when an errant wind gust blew the Orca over in March 2015. At the time, parks staff found it badly deteriorated, beyond repair, and made the reluctant decision to send it to the landfill. But no sooner had word of this broken than the community rose up in a chorus of heartfelt appeals to save the Orca.
Artist John Hurley was brought in to assess the damage. While he couldn’t guarantee success, he decided to give repairs a try. After weeks of removing more than 30 pounds of rotten wood, replacing it with an estimated 90 pounds of concrete mastic, then smoothing, shaping and repainting, the Orca was returned to its former location at Brackett’s Landing, where another generation can enjoy it.
It’s not the first time that a piece of public art in Edmonds has been defaced with graffiti. Just last year, vandals hit the Andy Eccleshall mural showing the mills on the old Edmonds waterfront. Eccleshall made repairs right away.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel