PORT TOWNSEND — They’re finished at last: five Creative District “art markers,” nearly 7 feet tall, sculpted from reclaimed fir and placed as invitations across the city.
To celebrate their installation, an evening of dancing, music, sketching and sculpting are planned for this Tuesday.
Port Townsend’s Main Street Program won the state’s Creative District designation in May 2020, and then received a $24,500 capital project grant from ArtsWA, the state Arts Commission. With matching funds from local donors, the art markers took shape at the studio of Jonah Trople, the local artist selected last February.
This Tuesday, the markers will serve as exclamation points in a celebration of creativity — in performing, culinary, visual and literary arts — at five sites. The public is invited out for these free activities, to go from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Trople, who’s been traveling back and forth for months between his home in Port Townsend and an artist residency on the Big Island of Hawaii, said he’s already received feedback about the markers.
They don’t look much like the city’s other public art installations; they’re “postmodern sculptures,” he said, made of whitewashed wood.
When asked the duration of their construction, Trople said he’s 32 years old, so that’s about how long it took them to take shape.
“There’s been so much discourse about them already,” he added, “and that’s the idea, to reach inside the human psyche, and incite reactions.” Trople said people have found him on Instagram and on his website, clementineartdept.com.
On Tuesday, the artist will travel from site to site, with Fort Worden the final stop at about 6:30 p.m., said Mari Mullen, executive director of the Main Street program. Here’s the itinerary of free public events.
• Tyler Plaza, Water and Tyler streets: Meet Trople at 5 p.m.; stay for a sculpture dedication, Elevated Ice Cream treats, Mayor Michelle Sandoval’s proclamation and music by guitarist Joe Euro.
• Washington and Monroe streets outside Key City Public Theatre: Sculpture dedication at 5:15 p.m., entertainment and tango demonstrations with Bertram Levy’s Stride Tango Project at 5:30 p.m. Featured musicians include tango specialist Levy, Seattle tango singer Robin Kallsen, bassist Todd Gowers and hot jazz clarinetist Jonathan Doyle.
• Tyler & Lawrence streets, Uptown: Sculpture dedication at 5:15 p.m. followed by the PT Urban Sketchers and plein air painters coordinated by Northwind Art.
• Port Townsend Public Library and Charles Pink House, Harrison and Lawrence streets: Sculpture dedication 5:15 p.m. with an outdoor poetry display and take-and-make blackout poetry kits; library stays open till 7 p.m.
• Fort Worden State Park entrance, 200 Battery Way: Sculpture dedication followed by mini-sculpture kits, created by PT Artscape artist Margie McDonald, free while supplies last.
These five art markers connect the downtown, Uptown and Fort Worden creative neighborhoods, Mullen said.
In addition, more than 60 wayfinding directional signs will be posted along F street and adjacent foot paths, guiding people from Uptown to the fort. These signs, bearing Trople’s Creative District logo and QR codes to be linked to ptcreativedistrict.org. The website, under development by RFG Creative, will be up by the end of June, Mullen said.
Port Townsend is now one of eight Creative Districts across the state. Edmonds was first in December 2018, said Annette Roth, the state Arts Commission’s manager of Creative Districts.
Chewelah, Issaquah, Twisp, Tenino, Langley and Olympia have since followed, and this summer, Roth said, Bainbridge Island, the South Columbia area of Kennewick and Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood are in line for the designation. Information about applying for the status is found at https://www.arts.wa.gov/creative-districts/.
These districts reflect how much their communities believe in the arts’ role in quality of life, Roth said.
“As human beings, we need [art and culture] to help make sense of the world and understand humanity better,” she said.
In the wake of the pandemic, she believes, creative people have the ability to help their communities heal.
Roth offered 2019 data — the most recent available — to show the arts sector’s influence on Port Townsend and Jefferson County.
In the city there were 847 creative economy jobs, $92.2 million in creative industry sales and $32.5 million in total industry earnings, all of which were increases from 2018. The county’s total creative industry sales reached $113.8 million with 1,261 creative economy jobs, she noted. Jefferson County saw $42.4 million in total industry earnings for creative economy workers, an 8 percent gain from 2018.
The pandemic devastated the arts sector, Roth acknowledged. But she hailed Port Townsend as an example of a place where creative energy will help the whole community climb up and out.
The city “has a reputation for being a Victorian jewel,” Roth said.
Its new markers, she added, are public art that connects the past with the present and the future.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]