Renton is paying into public art with two new projects, at an almost $400,000 investment— one that’s an ode to the city’s history, the other brightening up a park.
The first project is for public art to be included in Phase Two of the Sunset Community Park project. Artist Kirk Seese of Lutherville, Maryland was selected out of several national and international artists by a committee of city staff, Sunset residents and the Renton Municipal Arts Commission. The project is budgeted at $250,000, paid for with the density transfer fees the city received from the Sunset Terrace project.
The project includes creating several vertical sculptures that could create a forest of color in the park, while being spaced out as to not create sight-line issues.
Seese stated in an email he got involved in public art sculptures after doing work sculpting climbing walls for a New Zealand based company ClimbZone. Before that he was creating public murals. Now he’s been answering national requests for artists using his debut sculpture, “The Feather,” that has already exhibited in nine other states.
The plan is for a entire forest of these ‘feathers,’ with one large one in the center at 25 to 30 feet in height, possibly as one large cluster, several groups and/or lining the pathways of the park.
Seese has never been to Washington state so he responded to a small $1,000 grant proposal the city of Renton put out. Months later he learned he not only won the commission, but would be able to create a much larger display as part of the Sunset Park project.
“I am beyond excited to get started with the design process, putting down what is already a vision in my head,” Seese stated in an email.
Phase Two of the Sunset Park also includes construction of a playground area, adult fitness area, a picnic plaza, a misting water feature and more landscaping along the walkways. The artist contract needed to be approved now so it could be designed in part of the Phase Two designs.
Seese’s style will add color and interesting entryways to the park, Community Services Capital Projects Manager Alan Wyatt said. Phase Two is scheduled to be finished by late spring or early summer of 2020.
“This art will certainly enhance the visual character (of the park),” Wyatt said.
The second project titled “The Renton Loop” would sit at the corner of Main Avenue South and South Second Street. An original art project meant to go at that corner was abandoned after the city wasn’t able to meet the scope of the project. The project is budgeted at $146,261.28, with about $50,003.50 from the 1 percent for Arts fund and the rest from the city’s Arts and Culture project account. It’s set to be installed this fall.
Western Neon, the same company that created the downtown Renton dragon, is designing the 12-foot diameter circle sculpture. Creative Director Dylan Neuwirth first presented the proposed loop to council at the June 10 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Neuwirth said he looked at one of the original ideas for the previous project, that it referenced the Renton Loop, a traditional cruise done by youth in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and reason for the annual Cruz the Loop event. He also dug deeper into the business history in Renton, and how its been evolving, after hearing stories while working on the dragon.
The project tells the story through materials: coal, Core-Ten steel, aluminum, stainless steel and futuristic lights. This covers the journey of coal and steel industries, Boeing, health care and incoming technology companies. Neuwirth explained the loop will twist together steels and raw aluminum into an illuminated arc. The sculpture then sits on a bed of metal colored to look like coal.
“I like your story that goes with it,” Council President Don Persson said at the June 10 meeting. “I drove it as a kid, I enforced it as a police officer. I’ve been through the loop.”
At the Aug. 19 council meeting, council approved the artist contracts for each project.