A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Public art: What’ll it look like?

Written January 22nd, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Behind and to the left of my bike, that’s the spot the Albany Arts Commission has picked for a piece of public art, a sculpture most likely.

Albany is about to follow through on spending some money for public art. The plan is to invite artists to propose something — most likely a sculpture that would be placed on a patch of grass near the Lyon Street off-ramp from Highway 99.

The city council got a briefing on the project Monday from Parks Director Ed Hodney and Julie Jackson, chair of the volunteer Albany Arts Commission.

A city ordinance requires that 1 percent of the money spent on new public buildings must be spent on art, but the art doesn’t have to be in or near the buildings themselves. Based on the final construction costs of the new police station and the fire department’s Station 11, the amount remaining available is about $80,000, Hodney told the council. That’s after other expenses loosely related to “art” — historical displays including an antique pumper at the fire hall, and a bio-swale to handle rain water at police headquarters.

The arts commission considered various locations for this project and settled on a spot of grass near intersecting footpaths at Lyon Street and the off-ramp from Pacific Boulevard (Highway 99). The site is owned by the state, and the city will seek a permit from ODOT. Council consent is required, and the council gave it at Monday’s work session.

The panel intends to advertise a request for proposals for designs and will have a public forum before selecting a winning entry, which it then intends to submit for the city council’s OK . The winner doesn’t have to be a sculpture, but that’s the most likely possibility, Jackson acknowledged. The winning artist also doesn’t have to be from Albany.

The council was shown apparently famous examples of sculptures in public places. One was a duck and her ducklings in Boston. Another was a scene from Alice in Wonderland in New York’s Central Park.

The site off Lyon was carefully selected from a range of other locations around town, according to Jackson. It’s a gateway to downtown and visible from Albany Station (if you peer under the Pacific overpass from just the right spot).

The arts commission says the $80,000 from the public safety buildings will be “seed money.” There was talk of a crowdfunding campaign for the difference between that amount and whatever the project costs.

In the presentation to the council, the commission said it would like to complete this project in 2018. Once the designs are in hand, you can expect a spirited local discussion about particular proposals and the nature of art. But there’s no doubt that art in public places improves the ambiance of any town. (hh)

Arts Commission Chair Julie Jackson talks to the city council at Monday’s work session.

People will be able to see the art project as they drive down from the Pacific Boulevard viaduct.






8 responses to “Public art: What’ll it look like?”

  1. Brad says:

    They asked for suggestions on what to put in the middle of the new circle road on Main Street a few years ago. They ignored the awesome Alfred E. Neuman statue idea and put a bunch of boulders there instead.

  2. David Ffitchett says:

    At the Main Circle they also turned down a Hackleman feature, that would have balanced the Monteith side of town.

    For this grassy area maybe they could have a free beer dispenser to honor the Albany Brewing Company at this site at the turn of the last century – or, more realistically, a water dispenser that looks like a beer dispenser.

  3. James Engel says:

    Poor location as to easy parking. With rentals & housing all around it may prove a hard place to park & walk. Having it located by a downhill, curving roadway may prove a distraction to drivers rubber necking to look while driving! Too bad the selected spot is “set-in-stone” as a better place might be the west end of the court house. Or in that area of “desired development” at Hill & Water. Could be a draw for future residents. We can sure count on our City Council to throw tax dollars at what ever comes of it all!!!!

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    How about a pile of broken pavement to represent those of us that don’t live downtown?

  5. John Buchner says:

    Bronze statues of Bill and Doris Scharpf would be appropriate art in our city. This couple has given many millions of dollars to the community to help finance the city library, the carousel, the Albany Regional Museum, swimming pools, LBCC, and the list continues, thus saving many obligations of local tax payers. These “anonymous” gifts are daily reminders of these Albany philanthropists and their involvement in civic life.

  6. Bill higby says:

    Very good idea.

  7. Gothic Albany says:

    HH said “But there’s no doubt that art in public places improves the ambiance of any town.”

    Well that is certainly not true. Art sometimes can improve the ambiance, but usually is an eyesore best left for someone’s mantle out of sight of public view. Take the hideous shards of metal by the otherwise beautiful downtown library for example. Art is best left for previous generations that understood beauty.


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