Council clears the way for public art project to go ahead

The Aberdeen City Council last night gave its final blessing for a public art project that will incorporate sandstone carvings salvaged from the Aberdeen High School fire several years ago and honor the philanthropy of the pioneering Weatherwax family. The school is officially named J.M. Weatherwax High School.

The authorization came hours after the Aberdeen Art Commission approved the project and the Grays Harbor Community Foundation agreed to fully fund it.

The foundation agreed to provide $104,000 for Portland artist Alex Kuby to install his new artwork, called “Resurgence,” a wave-like creation using the giant sandstone blocks leftover when the school burned down 10 years ago.

A selection committee chose Kuby’s concept last month, rejecting others that would have created a more fragmented wall and one that was a Stonehenge-like creation. The selection committee consisted of former state representative Lynn Kessler, former Aberdeen superintendent Marty Kay, Aberdeen architect Alan Gozart, Council President Kathi Hoder and Seattle public artist Carolyn Law.

The Weatherwax family first came to Grays Harbor in the 1880s, originally in the lumber business. The family has donated millions of dollars to the Grays Harbor Community Foundation over the years.

The artwork will be installed within the next year, according to Cath Brunner, a consultant with Seattle-based 4 Culture, hired to oversee the selection process and the installation.

The city of Aberdeen will be responsible for the maintenance costs of the artwork as well as infrastructure improvements before installation. The project will go on city land, on a small triangle at the intersection of Simpson Avenue and Park Street. The site was selected after looking at seven other sites all over the city.

Public Works Director Larry Bledsoe said he’s budgeted about $40,000 to do improvements, which includes building the triangle site up two feet, crafting a retaining wall around the site and installing sidewalks around it.

Brunner said the artwork is 14 feet deep, 65-feet long and 9 and a half feet tall.

The artwork includes the cresting wave made up of the carvings, as well as surrounding vegetation and a five-foot long Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant gravel path, allowing visitors to get to the artwork. Bledsoe said there will be a few parking spaces built into the new sidewalks.