Big quack-up slows traffic on Oak Harbor's Pioneer Way
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
July 12, 2012 · Updated 8:27 AM
Oak Harbor gained three new and permanent residents Tuesday with the installation of the “Stumbly Ducklings” bronze in downtown Oak Harbor.
The piece, which depicts a heart-warming scene of two ducklings being chased by a third that has “stumbled,” was created by renowned South Whidbey artist Georgia Gerber. It is the third and final work specifically commissioned as part of the SE Pioneer Way Improvement Project.
“I think they are just fabulous,” said K.C. Pohtilla, a member of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission.
She, along with several other arts commission members, city officials and business owners, turned out to watch the installation of the piece on the southern sidewalk between SE Hathaway and SE Ireland Street Tuesday morning.
The overwhelming consensus among the crowd was that the ducklings exceeded all expectations. They are certainly a long way from the cardboard cutout displays that were presented to decision-makers during the selection process, said Rick Lawler, an arts commission member.
“They look a whole lot better in 3D,” he said.
“It looks just ducky,” he laughed.
The piece is the result of efforts that began in 2010 when the Oak Harbor City Council gave the green light to spend up to $80,000 on public art as part of the downtown renovation 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 but things didn’t go exactly as planned.
Last minute funding issues resulted in expected hardships and just three pieces were ultimately approved. They included a bronze mermaid at the intersection on SE Dock Street and the silver piece called “Moon Waves” at the intersection with SE Midway Boulevard.
Both have since been completed and installed.
The ducklings, the last of the three planned projects --- a fourth gateway piece could be installed sometime in the future --- was installed by Gerber and a small team of helpers as drivers slowed to watch. She also was pleased with the result.
Gerber, who has completed works in cities across the nation and state, including the famous pig in Seattle’s Pike Place Market named “Rachel,” had cast similar smaller versions of the duckling scene and used them as a template.
“It was so fun to see them enlarged,” she said.
The bronze that was installed is and will remain a one of a kind, however. It was one of the requirements of the $33,000 contract.
Gerber said the building process began in January and took about six months to complete. Little details that were indistinguishable in the smaller models, such as texturing, added a special touch to the final piece that will only become more visible with time and handling from the public, she said.
Although Gerber’s work can be seen in cities throughout Washington, she said it is particularly nice when pieces she’s done are displayed on Whidbey Island where she lives and works.
“It’s an honor to be in a town so close and I hope people enjoy them through the seasons,” Gerber said.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.