Council moves forward with accepting controversial sculpture

Oak Harbor City Council approved two agreements that effectively accept “Angel de la Creatividad.”

After months of controversy, Oak Harbor City Council members approved two agreements that effectively mean the “Angel de la Creatividad” sculpture will be placed in Windjammer Park.

The 4-1 vote OKed a gifting agreement with the estate of George Drake, a public arts supporter from Bellingham who offered the city the sculpture, and a professional services agreement with Sculpture Northwest to install the 37-foot-tall, steel work of art.

The city will pay Sculpture Northwest $35,000 to install the donated sculpture. The money will come from the city’s creative arts fund, which derives its funding from a 0.25% tax on residents’ utility bills.

The council’s approval is contingent on the sculpture’s ability to pass a structural integrity assessment by a professional engineer. If it fails due to problems with welds on the enameled steel sculpture, the agreements would be null and void. If it passes, then council members will vote on a city ordinance to formally accept the gift.

Councilmembers Millie Goebel, Tara Hizon, Joel Servatius and Beth Munns voted in support of the sculpture.

Councilmembers Erica Wasinger and Jim Woessner were absent from the meeting. Wasinger previously said she would not support the art. Woessner has voiced his support for it but suggested it be placed in Catalina Park instead of Windjammer Park.

Councilmember Jeffrey Mack was the single nay vote.

“This is not a good fit for this city,” Mack said. “A good majority of residents do not approve of it and are against it, and in my opinion, there is a high probability that the city of Oak Harbor could be challenged in a court for placing a sculpture that is deemed religious on public property.”

Mack added that the $35,000 the city will spend to install the art could be better spent on a windmill and is something citizens have already said they wanted.

Hizon responded that she did not think the “Angel de la Creatividad” was religious in nature and did not think a claim would hold up in court. City Attorney Grant Weed said he did not have an opinion because he did not have all of the facts in front of him nor had he been asked to research the issue.

Hizon also responded more broadly to the public comments regarding a windmill. There was a windmill at the waterfront park for many years but it was dismantled in 2017 because it fell into disrepair, upsetting many in the community.

“The very idea that Dutch heritage is the only thing that is worthy of representation in our community is really problematic at best. That is not OK,” she said, adding that there are more cultures besides Dutch in Oak Harbor.

There were eight public comments submitted presented during the meeting. Only one favored the sculpture while the other seven asked council members not to approve it or to put up a windmill instead.

Hizon said art was subjective and that no public art comes without controversy.

“If we waited until we got 100% approval on every single thing, there would be no art in this city at all,” Hizon said.