By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The Port Townsend Arts Commission did not find a strong favorite in the first round of submissions last summer.
“It was almost like we didn't know what we didn't want until we saw it,” said Erin Fristad, head of the artist selection panel of the commission that is charged with selecting the project.
The arts commission has $20,000 available for the design, materials, fabrication and installation of the artwork.
A new call for public art for the uptown neighborhood was issued last week.
Proposals must be postmarked or hand-delivered by Jan. 15.
The panel will review the proposals Feb. 11.
The commission is looking for work that will function both as a landmark and as “street furniture” such as bus shelters, clocks, litter and recycling receptacles, tables and chairs, benches, bike racks and shelters, water fountains, game tables or light standards.
“It must also be touchable and safe,” the commission said in the call.
It was written vaguely, Fristad said, to allow artists the freedom to come up with their best representation of the uptown neighborhood.
“After the first call, we felt we needed to be a bit more specific about how it will function uptown, but we didn't want to tell the artists what to make, which is a really difficult balance,” she said.
Whether the public art is a single monument or a series of pieces centered around a single design theme is up to the artist, Fristad said.
An example of a single piece is the 8-foot-tall bronze “Salish Sea Circle” by Seattle artist Gerard Tsutakawa that was funded by the commission and placed in downtown's Civic District plaza in 2011.
“Not a day goes by that we don't see someone sticking their head inside that circle,” said Development Services Director Rick Sepler, who advises the artist selection committee as the city's official representative.
Seventeen artists submitted proposals after the first call, with five selected for the panel's review.
The five artists presented models of their proposals in May.
Fristad said none of the proposals worked for the neighborhood.
“Downtown is kind of for the tourists. Uptown is where the locals come, where the community really comes together,” she said.
Proposals from the first round didn't fit that bill, Arts Commission Chairman Stanley Rubin said.
“We just didn't agree to any of them that we could go forward with,” Rubin said.
“There just wasn't anything the members of the panel or the public could get together and get behind.”
Because of that, the committee reworked its call for artists.
“It was nothing negative to the fine artists who did submit, and we certainly don't want them to feel discouraged so they don't reapply,” Rubin said.
Rubin said the neighborhood creates a unique set of problems for a public art display.
Uptown has little public space, he said. The art must be durable, both to weather and to the wide age variety of the neighborhood, which is composed of businesses and families and is particularly packed during the Saturday and Wednesday markets on Tyler Street.
“Every site up there raises issues because you have a lot of use and people of all ages,” Rubin said.
Proposals can be mailed to Scottie Foster, Call For Artists, City of Port Townsend, 250 Madison St., Port Townsend, WA 98368
To view the call for art, visit www.cityofpt.us/callfor.
For more information, contact Foster at 360-344-3057 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.