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Pioneer Way public art proposals pared to 15

Oak Harbor is moving forward with plans to spend up to $80,000 on public art along SE Pioneer Way as part of the downtown street’s one-way conversion.

The arts commission spent more than three hours Tuesday paring down a list of 43 individual pieces proposed by 16 artists to a manageable 15 pieces by 11 artists. But the marathon meeting may be just the first of several to come.

“The process is going to be even longer from here on out,” said Cac Kamak, a senior planner with Oak Harbor’s Development Services department.

The arts commission is now expected to move forward with a series of public meetings, grilling artists about their submissions and garnering input from the public to aid in narrowing down the choices even further.

The proposal is to put artwork on SE Pioneer at the intersections of City Beach Street, Dock Street, Ireland Street and Midway Boulevard. The pieces on City Beach and Midway would be in the $30,000 range as those intersections are considered gateways to downtown, while the others would be adorned with $10,000 pieces.

While art has been a line item on the $8.35 million road project from the beginning, it’s an expenditure that is contingent on the approval of the Oak Harbor City Council.

Arts commission members made it clear Tuesday evening that they intend to engage the public heavily during the selection process. Art has a tendency to be subjective and it will be vital to make sure the public knows its opinion matters. It may also lesson future criticism of selected works.

“Regardless of what is chosen, it’s going to be contentious,” Arts Commission member Erica Schumacher said.

Nora O’Connell Balda said she also hoped additional meetings would be held in an informal setting, away from City Hall. Speaking before a formal board can hinder comments and the purpose is to get as much public input as possible.

“It will help us in the end,” O’Connell Balda said.

According to Kamac, nothing is concrete yet but the plan is to hold a special arts commission meeting Feb. 7 with artists and the public at City Hall. A second, informal, open house will be held later in the month while a third and fourth meeting may be held in March before any recommendations are forwarded to the city council for final review.

“We’re looking at a couple more months,” Kamak said.

The arts commission is looking at several other options of gathering public input as well, including an online blog. All the artworks under consideration can be viewed and graded on the website, cohpioneerwayart.blogspot.com/.

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