Sculpture dedication caps new Port Townsend downtown civic district
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Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval speaks at the dedication of the “Salish Sea Circle” sculpture on Saturday afternoon while holding a scale model of the artwork. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The completion of the Civic District was capped by Saturday’s dedication of an evocative sculpture that is meant to define a part of town that has during the past few years received little respect.

“This city has a great spirit of volunteerism and commitment to the arts,” said arts commission Chairman Stan Rubin at Saturday’s dedication of Gerard Tsutakawa’s “Salish Sea Circle.”

“This work provides a link between our maritime tradition to the vibrant civic and commercial area that downtown has become.”

About 150 people gathered for the dedication ceremony, while about as many came downtown to shop at the adjacent Rhody Festival Crafts Fair and play in newly landscaped Pope Marine Park.

The bronze sculpture provides the final piece in the construction at the north end of Water Street that began with the construction of the Northwest Maritime Center and included a $224,000 renovation of Pope Marine Park, a $2 million Water Street streetscape and $678,000 in Madison wStreet improvements.

Aside from the maritime center, these projects cost $5.1 million.

“The aperture in the center of the sculpture is intended to look into the future,” said Tsutakawa, who was on hand for the dedication.

“It looks east, toward the morning.”

Tsutakawa said he deliberately placed the 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture at an angle, so when people pull up to the corner of Water and Madison streets, “it will be the first thing they see.

“I really hope this will be a strong symbol for Port Townsend,” he said.

The $70,000 sculpture was commissioned in April 2010 for a fall delivery, which was postponed after several delays brought about by the discovery of old oil tanks and a “void” area under downtown sidewalks.

Tsutakawa finished the sculpture in the fall and moved it into storage while he worked on another sculpture, a “fraternal twin” to “Salish Sea Circle,” that is now in St. Louis.

In her address, Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval first recognized the debut of KPTZ radio, which went on the air Saturday, then linked the two events.

“This sculpture is not without controversy, like our new radio station,” she said.

“Both of them create conversation, which is what life is about.”

Sandoval said she hoped the new park would host a variety of conversations “about this piece of art and everything else.”

Conversation is only the beginning, since the sculpture invites people to crawl through its center, as several children did immediately.

Saturday’s ceremony also included an address by Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Jeromy Sullivan, who listed his immediate ancestors.

“It is really important to recognize where we come from, for this is one of the places that the Port Gamble S’Klallam people called home at one time,” he said.

“It’s an honor for my tribe to take part in gatherings like this, to sing songs and have a presence, because it really is part of a healing process.”

Following the ceremony, the city is “taking a breather” with regard to construction projects, said Sandoval, though some work remains.

Future downtown work to be done includes turning the Tidal Clock into a small amphitheater and adding streetscape to the area surrounding the wave viewing gallery, which was moved farther inland.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 15. 2011 12:02AM
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