Four artists with widely different styles are finalists in an effort to create a $100,000 public art piece for a prominent location in downtown Ashland.

Four artists with widely different styles are finalists in an effort to create a $100,000 public art piece for a prominent location in downtown Ashland.

The public art will be installed at a site known as the Gateway Island, where Lithia Way, Siskiyou Boulevard and Main Street converge near the Ashland library and Fire Station No. 1.

After examining applications from 68 artists, the Ashland Public Arts Commission recently announced Pete Beeman, Susan Zoccola, Roger White Stoller and John Buck as finalists.

"It took seven meetings and many, many hours for each commissioner to read, review and discuss the submissions," Public Arts Commission Chairwoman Margaret Garrington said. "We are confident in our selection of the four finalists and look forward to the artistic concepts they develop for the Gateway Island site over the next several months."

Beeman's large sculptures frequently move and some are designed to interact with viewers.

"If an artwork cannot involve its audience, it has failed," the Portland artist wrote in his application.

A towering piece he created for Taiwan allows a viewer to pedal a stationary bicycle, which causes the arms of a bright blue, yellow and orange sculpture to cycle around.

His public art frequently has an industrial feel, incorporating metal plus vivid primary colors.

Zoccola, who lives in Seattle, often uses natural forms to inspire her art. A piece she created for a Seattle site features a tall, grass-green pole topped with gently curving stems ending in maple tree seedpod-type forms. The pod shapes are lit from within by LED lights and move slightly in the wind.

Zoccola created street lights that resemble pea pods or the gracefully drooping white blooms of lily of the valley flowers to mark the art district of Everett, Wash.

In her application, Zoccola said her work is "especially suited to this project, as I make artwork that is responsive to the environment, helps create a sense of place, reveals dimensions of its history and brings awareness to natural patterns."

Portola Valley, Calif., artist Stoller is known for creating abstract metal sculptures with organic, lacy patterns. The sculptures often twist in a spiral shape.

"The abstract patterns result in viewers seeing new things each time they look, like watching clouds. I am always delighted to hear what people see, things that I did not know were there," Stoller said in his application.

Fans of Southern Oregon University's Schneider Museum of Art may remember Buck, who had a 2006 exhibition there.

"I was impressed with the culture of the city and enthusiasm everyone has for the arts," Buck wrote about his past visit to Ashland for the exhibition. "The combination of theater and visual arts is inspirational to the kind of imagery I would like to present to the committee."

The Montana artist's elaborate sculptures often feature headless human forms balancing abstract shapes or objects such as a theater mask, compass, globe or birds.

City of Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer, the staff liaison to the Public Arts Commission, said the artists' past projects reveal their style, but the Gateway Island public art piece will be unique to Ashland.

"The real test will be what concept they come up with for Ashland," Seltzer said.

The four artists will visit Ashland to tour the Gateway Island site and get a feel for the community in the next few months. The Public Arts Commission is developing a process for public input, city officials said.

Early efforts to reach out to the public include information and questions for residents to answer in July's City Source newsletter that goes out in utility bills.

Public Arts commissioners will set up a booth on the downtown Plaza during Ashland's evening First Friday Art Walks in July, August and September. July's First Friday Art Walk has been moved from July 4 to July 11 because of the Fourth of July holiday.

The finalists will return to Ashland in 2015 to present their proposed concepts to the community. One artist will be selected to install his or her public art in fall 2016, city officials said.

A public art selection panel, separate from the Public Arts Commission, will be convened to choose the winning artist.

The $100,000 project will be financed by Ashland's hotel tax — 3 percent of which is set aside for public art.

To view the applications from the artists and see more photos of their past public art pieces, visit

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or Follow her at