Survey says: Most don’t want sculpture

Only 26.18 percent of responses favored the sculpture, while 70.66 percent said they do not want it.

The results of a public survey to gauge how residents feel about Oak Harbor’s potential gift of the “Angel de la Creatividad” sculpture was overwhelmingly negative, according to an attachment on Wednesday’s city council workshop meeting agenda.

Staff will share the survey results during the Oak Harbor City Council workshop meeting on Wednesday, beginning at 2 p.m. The agenda and meeting packet can be found on the city’s website.

The survey garnered 760 responses before it closed on June 16. The six questions asked respondents if they were a resident of Oak Harbor, if they wanted city council members to accept the gift, where they would like the sculpture to be placed, what color they would prefer and if they had any additional concerns.

Six hundred and sixty responses, or 88.84 percent, came from people who said they were residents. Just 13.16 percent came from those who said they lived outside of the city.

Most of the public comment submitted to city council meeting records, however, has come from people outside of the city, according to an update shared last month. It prompted Councilmember Jeffrey Mack at the time to ask for a residency question to be added to the survey.

It was clear from the results that respondents do not want the city to accept the gift. Only 26.18 percent of responses favored the sculpture, while 70.66 percent said they do not want city council members to accept the art. The remaining 3.16 percent of responses said they didn’t care how city council members voted.

Earlier this year, Oak Harbor was offered the 37-foot-tall sculpture by world-renowned artist Sebastian and it has become a hot-button issue. People have submitted public comments to the city on both sides of the debate, while the social media battle rages on community group pages, this newspaper’s comment section and the city’s own Facebook page.

Those against the sculpture criticize its size, color, style and location, along with sharing their unhappiness for the design of Windjammer Park and desire to have a windmill. Those in favor of the art point to its artist’s fame and the potential to be a draw for tourism.

The executor of an avid arts supporter, George Drake, offered the bright-red sculpture to Oak Harbor as a gift. The art was originally offered to Drake’s hometown of Bellingham, but the executor of his estate pulled the gift while the northern city was exploring options for how to accept it. Instead, he offered it to Oak Harbor.

Therese Kingsbury and Richard Nash presented the opportunity to city park board members in February and artist renderings of a proposed location in Windjammer Park. Kingsbury is a member of the city Arts Commission and Nash is a member of an organization that supports public sculptures called Sculpture Northwest.

Oak Harbor will be responsible for $35,000 of the installation costs. Drake’s estate has offered to pay for the rest.

The general consensus to not accept the sculpture was further emphasized in a question about where people would like to see the sculpture placed — 66.58 percent of respondents again said they do not want the city to have the sculpture.

The remaining responses were spread somewhat evenly between five locations — one location in Windjammer Park near the kitchen shelter to the west of the boat ramp (6.97 percent), one on the east side of the boat ramp in Windjammer Park (8.03 percent), Catalina Park (4.08 percent), Flintstone Park (3.95 percent) and the future sports fields at the city’s property temporarily dubbed Harbor Heights (6.58 percent). Just over three percent of respondents said they had no opinion.

Two additional concerns respondents shared centered on maintenance costs and where the sculpture would stand tall. Nearly 29 percent of respondents said they had other concerns, which were not specified in the results, and 37.11 percent of respondents said they had no other concerns.

The sculpture will need to be sandblasted so an engineer can inspect the welds and the color can be changed from its current bright red visage to another hue. Most respondents again said they did not want the sculpture (62.89 percent), but two top choices included silver (14.61 percent) or white (7.37 percent). There was also an option for “other,” which gained 15.13 percent of responses, but the results did not detail what respondents wrote.

The origins of the survey have been questioned during previous city council meetings or in other city committee meetings. Oak Harbor Public Information Officer Sabrina Combs explained that staff moved forward with the survey after hearing city council members ask for more information in previous meetings.

“We heard those comments from city council so we used that as input that we should move forward with it,” Combs said. There were no objections from council members so staff went ahead with creating the survey, she added.

When asked about any impressions from the survey results, Combs said the art was clearly a hot topic.

“This is something that is obvious that the community is passionate about,” she said. “I have had several thousand responses on the Facebook post that was put out.”

The council is not expected to take action on the gift during Wednesday’s meeting and Combs said that she did not know when they were expected to vote.