The City of Oak Harbor has been offered a gift of a 37-foot-tall sculpture created by a famous Mexican artist, but some people are skeptical of the towering piece and its proposed location in Windjammer Park.
The sculpture titled “Angel de la Creatividad,” or Angel of Creativity, was created by sculptor Sebastián, who was born Enrique Carbajal González, of Mexico City. His work has been seen in exhibits and permanent installations around the world. The sculpture is made of enameled steel and features an abstract figure of an angel on top of a tall column.
The piece could become part of the city’s public art and is valued at over $500,000, according to Richard Nash and Therese Kingsbury. Both are involved with Sculpture Northwest, a nonprofit that works to bring more public art to the area, and Kingsbury is also a member of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission.
The city had considered buying the piece about a year ago but learned it was unavailable at the time. George Drake, an avid supporter of public art who passed away last year, bought the sculpture and was going to give it to the City of Bellingham. Bellingham went through an extensive vetting process, Nash explained, and the executor of Drake’s estate decided to pull the gift. He turned to Nash and Kingsbury and said he would consider Oak Harbor for the gift.
Oak Harbor Park Board members learned more about the sculpture during a meeting on Monday, and some expressed doubts about the new art and its proposed location in the large waterside park.
Thomas Tveit, the chairperson of the board, said he was concerned about the sculpture’s height and said he had talked to some people who would rather have a windmill art piece at the site.
“I personally feel it’s just a little bit not appropriate for that location,” Tveit said.
Arts Commission Chairperson Rodric Gagnon said that the proposed location of the sculpture was on the west side of the park near the basketball courts and would not interfere with a future windmill art piece.
“There’s plenty of space to accommodate both of those structures,” Gagnon said.
City Administrator Blaine Oborn cautioned that the project could be costly despite being a gift and recommended more vetting. He brought up unforeseen engineering issues with gifted art in the past, using as an example the donated Prowler monument planned for Pasek Street overlook that has been in the works for years.
“We wanted to make sure we learned from our mistakes and learn from our challenges we had in other projects,” Oborn said.
Oborn speculated that installation could cost the city anywhere from $75,000 to $300,000, which drew skepticism and questions from Nash and Gagnon.
Nash said Drake’s estate had earmarked funds for transportation and installation of the art piece.
“We’re trying to make this as simple as possible for the city by kind of taking over the project,” Nash said.
He said he thought the sculpture would bring people in from all over the state and farther, and benefit downtown Oak Harbor.
“We’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a piece of art that would be a huge draw for an awful lot of people,” he said.
Kingsbury said that she had talked with several city council members already and they were supportive of the public art project.
“It’s an asset, it’s a draw for tourism, it’s a gift to our community of culture which we desperately lack,” Kingsbury said.
Sebastián’s work has been seen around the world, Kingsbury added.
“To be offered an opportunity to accept a $500,000- plus asset for almost free, and to insert city problems as an obstacle is just making me crazy,” she said.
Nash and Kingsbury both stressed in separate interviews that the estate would pay for many of the costs. Nash said he had spoken with an engineering firm about the project already and said it would be pretty straightforward.
“If it’s done efficiently, it shouldn’t be a horrible expense,” Nash said in an interview.
He explained that pin piles, or pins that are driven deep into the earth and attached to the sculpture, would be used and he was not concerned about it falling over in high winds. The city would likely need to pay for engineering and permitting costs for the project, he said.
Still, park board members were concerned about the proposed site and asked if another park had been considered. Nash said Drake wanted it to be near the water, and he would need to talk with the executor of the estate about a new location.