By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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The 5 acres of forest and meadow surrounding the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center returns today to its sunup-to-sundown schedule, offering an unusual experience, free of charge, to city residents and visitors — with a special party planned next weekend.
The park, a convergence of nature and outdoor art alongside the center at 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd., shut down after unprecedented vandalism the night of Dec. 19 or 20.
Thirty-five works of art were damaged. The city Police Department still has no leads, Officer John Nutter said Thursday.
Ceramic sculptures were smashed and large installations shoved over. Arts center Executive Director Robin Anderson, who estimated that the damage could exceed $10,000, closed the woods and began contacting the contributing artists.
Then came the small army of volunteers and artists from Port Angeles to Port Townsend.
They came to put such sculptures as “Paul Bunyan's Chair,” Dani LaBlond's 10-foot-high wooden structure, back in place and to repair others such as “Water Shed,” Karen Hackenberg's house made of plastic water bottles.
Some sculptures, such as two of the three ceramic figures made by Viva Jones, were damaged beyond repair, Anderson said.
But one of them survived and has been brought up to the arts center patio.
“We can keep an eye on it,” Anderson said with a smile.
She recalled her first walk in Webster's Woods after the vandals' rampage.
“Seeing the effect of that kind of negativity on a positive place,” Anderson said, “brought tears.”
But then something unremittingly positive happened.
“The phone calls, the emails, the people coming up here — whole families with kids saying, 'We're gonna get whoever did that!' — created this whole tide of affection.
“I realized how much this is a park that belongs to the community,” Anderson said.
“That made me want to design programs for people to participate, more than they have in the past.”
Already, parents bring their children to the park regularly, neighbors stroll the place with their dogs, and tourists find their way up to the center, which has a view of Port Angeles Harbor.
Anderson is inviting them — and everyone in the surrounding community — to a “Restart the Park” party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. next Saturday, Feb. 9.
She's still firming up the schedule of activities but said it will include a find-the-art-in-the-park contest, a nature walk guided by Peninsula College professor Barb Blackie, special membership offers and refreshments inside the center.
There, in an exhibit by Oregon artist Marlana Stoddard Hayes, is another nature-art connection: Stoddard Hayes' canvases are layered with oil paint, transparent glazes and a third medium: spore prints from fungi growing under her trees.
The exhibit, titled “The Open Circle,” has been extended through Feb. 17. For information about this and forthcoming shows at the center, visit www.PAFAC.org or phone 360-457-3532.
In Webster's Woods, meanwhile, visitors will find scores of sculptures, paintings and mixed-media art pieces created by artists from across the North Olympic Peninsula and beyond.
A trio of Port Townsend artists, each with works in the woods, drove over to right the “Water Shed” in January.
Hackenberg, its builder, hammered the aluminum sides back into shape, Margie McDonald used her sail-rigging skills to help cross-brace and lash the sides, and Deanna Pindell swept and washed debris from the bottles.
“I have new thoughts about the shed,” Hackenberg said, “and may transform it into a living house by planting some seeds in the bottles.”
A new entrance to Webster's Woods and the fine arts center also is in the works.
Vicci Rudin, chairwoman of the center's board of trustees, said Thursday that plans for a rain garden, a redesigned parking area and a more conspicuous gateway have been approved by the city.
“In the next several months, we're concentrating on fundraising,” Rudin said, adding that the arts center also seeks in-kind donations of labor and materials.
In the wake of December's vandalism, “so many neighbors have come forward to say they will be keeping their eyes on what's going on,” Rudin said.
The story of Webster's Woods has become one of renewal and participation, she and Anderson believe. The vandals damaged this place but could not dismantle its community of art lovers.
“It's definitely the people's park,” Anderson said.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.