Russell Jaqua’s sculpture, “For Willene,” will be the public art centerpiece of a new informational park plaza to be constructed in front of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center building on Sims Way. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Russell Jaqua’s sculpture, “For Willene,” will be the public art centerpiece of a new informational park plaza to be constructed in front of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center building on Sims Way. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend Arts Commission studies public art

PORT TOWNSEND — Plans to develop an informational park plaza on a small triangle-shaped parcel of public property in front of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce office and visitors center are moving forward, the city manager said.

The site is located at the intersection of East Sims Way and Jefferson Street.

City Manager David Timmons said the $800,000 project will be started after the Water Street Enhancement Project is wrapped up, most likely early this fall.

“We’re taking open asphalt and making it into something welcoming,” Timmons said.

The Russell Jaqua-designed sculpture, “For Willene,” will be the centerpiece of the site. The forged metal sculpture was designed by local artist and blacksmith Jaqua before his death.

A gift for his wife’s birthday, the piece was completed by a team of 32 blacksmiths from around the country at his Nimba Forge. Jaqua died in 2006 shortly after it was completed. His widow donated the piece to the city as public art.

In addition to the sculpture, the plaza area will incorporate such items as rain gardens, bike racks, a seat wall, tables, and other amenities, Timmons said, adding that there are several additional locations for public art on the site.

An electric vehicle charging station also is planned. The site is accessible by a bike lane on East Sims Way.

The blue house that acted as the chamber’s Information Center for many years will be moved off the property, according to present plans.

In its place will be a new restroom building.

At a meeting Wednesday of the Port Townsend Arts Commission, Timmons said that city officials have identified several locations in areas of recent development that are available as public art sites.

The areas include the three roundabouts, especially the one in the area dubbed the Artisan District on Rainier Street and Discovery Road.

“We plan to have live/work studios, manufacturing and craft industries, and micro enterprises at the location. Public art would be especially appropriate in this area,” Timmons said.

Owen Rowe, chairman of the commission, said it was important to convene a group to begin to identify sites and establish a criteria for public art.

Commissioners Maryann Tapiro, Lisa Wentworth and Dan Groussman agreed to be members of the committee, with Rowe as an ex-offico member. They will work with the city to designate possible sites and then craft a document that explains the art criteria for each spot.

Their work will begin this summer and a plan is expected in the fall.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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