Oak Harbor arts commissioners responded to criticism Thursday over the potential gift of a 37-foot-tall sculpture by a famous artist amid cries to bring a windmill back to Windjammer Park.
Commissioners also discussed ideas about potentially bringing back a windmill to Windjammer Park or another city park.
It started with Monday’s Oak Harbor Park Board meeting in which members learned more about the offer of a gift of the metal sculpture.
Mexico City-based artist Sebastián, born Enrique Carbajal González, created “Angel de la Creatividad” out of enameled steel. The artwork features an abstract figure of an angel on top of a tall column.
It is valued at over $500,000, according to two people driving the effort to get it installed in Oak Harbor.
The estate of an avid public arts supporter, the late George Drake, has offered the sculpture as a gift to the city after it was initially offered to the City of Bellingham. Richard Nash, a friend of the executor of Drake’s estate, said the estate had already committed to paying for transportation and installation costs.
The city would be responsible for engineering and permitting costs.
Arts Commission Chairperson Rodric Gagnon told members Thursday that the estate said it would pay for costs in excess of $35,000.
Gagnon said he was working on getting a letter from Drake’s estate to confirm that commitment.
A significant number of social media comments expressed opposition to the sculpture and frustration with the city.
People were concerned with the placement of the towering sculpture in Windjammer Park, and the cost of engineering and maintenance.
Many people said they would rather have a windmill art piece instead to honor the community’s Dutch heritage.
The park used to have a windmill for many years, but, much to the dismay of the community, it was demolished in 2017.
Though city council members expressed their intent to bring a windmill back to the park in the past, City Administrator Blaine Oborn told arts commissioners that nothing was set in stone.
“There was no formal action by the council on it but there was an intent stated that it would be something they would look at,” Oborn said.
Arts commissioners also discussed the potential for a windmill when talking about the group’s priorities going forward.
Commissioner Therese Kingsbury said she had spoken with a local artist who has since moved to Montana about an idea he had for a kinetic, stainless steel windmill.
“It’s a doable (thing) in the future,” Kingsbury said.
“I think that maybe we could listen to the community and say we’re working on a project. There’s a lot of voices out there that are angry.”
She suggested doing a crowd funding campaign along with city matching funds “if their heart is really behind it that much.”
Gagnon suggested informally talking with artists and builders who may be interested in the much-anticipated project.
“I personally would like to see a traditional windmill go back at some point,” he said.
Oborn suggested the windmill could even go on a roundabout near the waterside park.
The idea of putting a windmill in the city’s new 75-acre park at the end of Gun Club Road, known currently as the Harbor Heights property, also came up in the discussion.
Commissioner Cynthia Mason suggested putting a call out to artists.
“If we get going on the idea, because our community obviously is screaming for it and has since it came down, if we can be the body that goes forward with the call to artists, I think it would be fantastic.”
Consideration of whether to accept, reject or table discussion of “Angel de la Creatividad” until the park board recommends a location is included in Tuesday’s city council meeting agenda.