Oak Harbor City council funds Stumbly Ducklings

The bronze “Stumbly Ducklings” art work for downtown Oak Harbor will waddle on SE Pioneer Way after all.

The Oak Harbor City Council approved the $33,000 piece in a 4-2 decision Tuesday. City Council members Bob Severns, Jim Campbell, Danny Paggao and Beth Munns voted for the piece’s commission while Jim Palmer and Mayor-elect Scott Dudley voted against.

The piece, which depicts walking ducklings and will be built by South Whidbey artist Georgia Gerber, is the third and final art work approved as part of the SE Pioneer Way Improvement Project. Its construction is expected to take from six to eight months.

“It’s received popular comments and I think it’s a real good piece,” said Skip Pohtilla, a member of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission during Tuesday’s meeting.

Last year, the city council green-lighted an effort to spend up to $80,000 on art to complement the project. The arts commission, which serves as an advisory group, spent six months coming up with a list of five pieces to present to the council for approval.

Much of their efforts were in vain, however. At the last minute, it was learned that the city’s planned funding source could not be legally used to fund art so the commission scrambled to come up with two top picks. But only one of their choices, a bronze mermaid, was selected by the city council.

The other piece chosen was Moon Waves, a two-dimensional large silver-colored statue of waves going over a moon. Gerber’s Stumbly Ducklings was also conditionally approved. It required public vetting so was sent back to the art’s commission for further review.

Three art commissioners resigned following the decision.

The city council meeting this week made it clear that the downtown art work is still controversial. Oak Harbor resident Shane Hoffmire said it may have been better if the project had been funded with donations and Mel Vance, who was not opposed to the Stumbly Ducklings, said something is needed at City Beach Street to act as a gateway to the revitalized downtown.

The money for all three projects will come from the Arts Acquisition and Maintenance Fund, a special pot of money that can only be used for art. The first two pieces approved tab out to about $65,000.

Dudley said he wouldn’t support spending another $33,000 when the art fund doesn’t yet have all the money needed to pay for the third piece even though it’s expected to have enough by the time the project is done.

Also, it’s unclear where the duckling piece will be located. It had been designated for the intersection of SE Ireland Street but that’s right next to the site where Native American remains were found this summer.

Palmer said he’d be “about as frustrated as you can get at this point” if he was a member of the arts commission but agreed that downtown needs a gateway piece.

Although some mentioned financial and locational concerns, Munns, Campbell, Paggao and Severns all supported moving ahead with the beautification effort.

“There will be sometime down the road where we’re going to be happy we did this,” Severns said.


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