Justin Hunter, with Architectural Elements, helps prepare the “Autumn Leaves” sculpture for installation Tuesday morning, along Highway 20, near the North Whidbey Middle School play fields. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

Sculpture becomes Oak Harbor’s newest entry piece

Drivers heading in and out of Oak Harbor on Highway 20 may be doing a double take when they catch sight of giant oak leaves swirling past.

Since Tuesday morning, the $45,000 “Autumn Leaves” steel sculpture has stood facing northward along Highway 20, near North Whidbey Middle School’s play fields.

Workers from Faber Crane Service, Independent Trucking and Architectural Elements, along with representatives from the Oak Harbor Arts Commission, installed the sculpture, which was funded through a 0.25 percent water, sewer and garbage utility tax.

“This was about a six-month process of deliberation on creating an entry-piece sculpture to Oak Harbor that accurately represents some of the elements that are common to Oak Harbor, such as wind and — of course — oak trees,” said Kit Christopherson, arts commission chairman.

The idea was to create a dynamic art piece that gave off the illusion of leaves blowing in the wind, he said. Accomplishing this feat took several months of deliberation, with an arts commission subcommittee taking point on key structural decisions as they worked with Architectural Elements from design to delivery.

Artist Kyle Thomas, previously with Architectural Elements, designed the overall sculpture after City of Oak Harbor approved the project in 2015.

Christopherson said the collaboration truly paid off, specifically highlighting some key characteristics on each of the sculpture’s 10 leaves.

“All of the perforated holes in the leaves change the way the light plays in,” he said. “So as you drive past, there should be a gradient shade change through the leaves … giving at least the impression of wind or motion.”

Nora O’Connell-Balda, charter member of the arts commission, said the piece “will undoubtedly be one of the largest things” the commission will ever do, describing the sculpture as 40 feet long and over fifteen feet high.

“I think that everyone will probably like it, because it’s so Oak Harbor,” O’Connell-Balda said. “There’s really not much to dislike here.”

Justin Hunter, with Architectural Elements, ensures the “Autumn Leaves” sculpture will be safe to off load from Independent Trucking’s vehicle Tuesday morning, along Highway 20, near the North Whidbey Middle School play fields. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

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