The Oak Harbor Arts Commission has selected an artist to create a large acorn statue out of wood from a beloved Garry oak tree for $15,000.
The arts commission picked renowned wood artist Pat McVay from Clinton for the job. McVay’s work has been displayed at the Clinton ferry terminal, the Price Sculpture Forest in Coupeville and the Seattle Aquarium, among others.
“Pat has a really long history doing great work,” Arts Commission Chair Rodric Gagnon said.
In its request, the arts commission asked for the artist to use wood from the 330-year-old Garry oak tree that was cut down from its location in front of the Oak Harbor Post Office in 2014. The sculpture is to be 36-48 inches in diameter, or “as large as practically allowable,” and must be completed by June 2021.
Following a public outcry after the tree was axed, city leaders agreed that the wood would be used to make sculptures and other projects.
McVay submitted two draft designs. “Plan A” included a large acorn with the figure of a man pushing against it, noted as former Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley, as well as a chainsaw.
Although officially included in the artist’s response, the commission learned the Dudley version was just a joke.
“Plan B” draft design included a large acorn resting on top of Garry oak leaves and was the design the commission selected.
“My vote is for Plan B,” Gagnon said, gaining a few laughs.
Others noted that they were glad to see McVay has a sense of humor.
Dudley was mayor when the city cut down the landmark tree without notifying the public.
“From an artist perspective, the artist they selected is pretty darn impressive,” Dudley said when asked about the project.
“He’s quite the talent, and there’s no doubt whatever art piece that we get from Pat McVay is gonna be enjoyed by individuals for years to come.”
He criticized the city’s spending for the sculpture and said the commission should have a fundraiser for it instead.
“It’s beautiful, but could I justify spending the citizens’ money on another piece of art just after raising their utility rates again and again and again? No,” Dudley said.
The city places a “0.25 percent utility tax on water, sewer and solid waste operations” for art acquisition and maintenance, according to the city’s biennial budget.
The arts commission researches potential projects for city council approval.
The arts commission lowered the budget from $30,000 to the current amount this past February.
In his design concept details, McVay cautioned that he may not be able to make a large sculpture out of the remaining wood because it has been damaged.
If one large acorn couldn’t be made, McVay’s solution would be to cut the wood into giant slabs and carve designs on them.
McVay also recommended the sculpture be kept indoors for longevity and ease of maintenance, although he said with the proper coating and shelter it could be placed outdoors.