Editorial: Art proposals move ahead

Who would have known that one day Oak Harbor would have in the neighborhood of $100,000 to blow on community art projects?

It’s not a bad thing, it’s just surprising the no-nonsense Navy town would go all artsy on us, like Langley north. The City Council set aside approximately $80,000 for art projects to enhance the $8 million downtown Pioneer Way makeover project, and the Arts Commission itself has a separate budget from other city sources.

This all started a few years ago with a block-type piece of art in Fort Nugent Park, well away from the downtown core. But now, thanks to the plentiful funding, art is the talk of the town.

The appointed Oak Harbor Arts Commission just finished an excellent process in which it led the effort to acquire art for Pioneer Way. It advertised for artists’ proposals, interviewed artists in public meetings, posted the proposals on the Web, and even enclosed pictures and a voting ballot with city utility bills.

The four finalists recommended to the City Council by the Arts Commission don’t perfectly jibe with the public vote, but Commission Chairwoman Erica Schumacher explained that away in practical terms, having to do with location, utilities and the like. Besides, the seven commission members have their own views and the right to take other factors, including aesthetics, into consideration.

The four primary pieces decided on will likely absorb the allocated $80,000, so the Arts Commission proposes to use its regular funding to purchase the public’s favorite: a bronze mermaid that will be installed outside the project area, stationed at the intersection of Highway 20 and Pioneer Way to lure visitors downtown with her siren song.

All the proposals can be seen at http://cohpioneerwayart.blogspot.com/.

The final decision belongs to the City Council, and members are no doubt already hearing an earful to make sure the pieces are as vandal-proof as possible and questioning the recommendations.

The council will struggle with those and other questions, but in the end Oak Harbor will be graced by five remarkable pieces of art. Imagine that for a no-nonsense Navy town. Things are indeed changing on Whidbey Island.

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