Downtown’s fine new centerpiece | Editorial

Oak Harbor’s long, stressful public art process associated with Pioneer Way improvements finally hit pay dirt last week with the installation of Georgia Gerber’s sculpture, “Stumbling Ducklings,” downtown.

The three bronze ducklings in a line, the last of which is in a comical stumbling position, will be a hit with locals and visitors alike. They’ll draw attention to downtown. The ducklings are touchable art, in that kids and adults can pet them or hug them. Perhaps they will be given pet names, such as Huey, Dewey and Louie.

If the ducks are treated like other works of art by Gerber, they will change with the seasons. Her famous Boy and Dog, one of her first major works on Whidbey, has been the centerpiece of downtown Langley since 1986. People decorate the boy for holidays, put hats on him for particular occasions, and when it’s especially cold, the boy can often be seen wearing a scarf as he gazes across Saratoga Passage to Camano Island.

Oak Harbor now joins a host of other cities that can brag about having a public work of art created by Georgia Gerber in her Clinton studio. Seattle has its famous Rachel the pig in Pike Place Market, modeled after a pig of the same name that once lived in Clinton. Her Black Bear and Cubs can be found in both Denver and Tokyo; her amusing Swallowtail Caterpillar has been entertaining kids at the Pacific Science Center since 1998, and her three dancing girls, “Along Colby,” give Everett a proud piece of public art. Mentioning all her creations throughout the state and nation would consume too much space; suffice it to say that people everywhere love her art.

The Oak Harbor Arts Commission did a fine job in selecting Georgia Gerber as the primary artist for the new downtown. At $33,000, the Stumbling Ducklings didn’t come cheap. But as the years go by they’ll more than pay for themselves by the people they attract downtown and the business they generate as a result.

The two other projects already installed, “Moon Waves” and a bronze mermaid, are also merit worthy and add to the downtown atmosphere, but Stumbling Ducklings is clearly the outstanding centerpiece sought by the Arts Commission. The project, which may include one more future work of art, took many hours of time and a great deal of frustration, but it clearly proved worthwhile in the end. Congratulations on a job well done.


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