Artist Gordon Huether unveiled two design concepts for the beautification and illumination of the downtown "theater corridor" Monday evening at a public meeting.
Huether also presented his proposals to the City Council on Tuesday. An independent selection panel is due to confer on its pick Friday, followed by final council review at its Sept. 5 meeting.
One concept, preliminarly dubbed “Shakespearean Poses,” is made up of three individual sculptures, evenly spaced along the walkway. The sculptures would be created from reclaimed materials found in Huether’s studio yard, such as scrap metal. Each would showcase a different pose and be tall enough to not impede pedestrians.
While he created a generic model to bring to the meetings, Huether said that the exact design is unknown until his team begins creating the pieces due to the materials being recycled.
LED lights will be used to illuminate the sculptures and the walkway at night, but the placement of the lights has not yet been decided.
The second proposal, dubbed “Velocity,” is a sculpture depicting the trajectory of a giant bouncing ball. Thick, aluminum pipe arches would begin at the top of the walkway and end at the bottom with the ball at the end of the final arc. LED lights would be placed underneath the arches to light up the walkway at night, and possibly in the ball as well.
After a decision is made, Huether and his team of 12 will develop the chosen concept further in his studio in Napa Valley, California. Installation is for the spring.
After many concept discussions, it was decided that the walkway should be renovated in a way that would direct pedestrians through it in the day, as well as night, hence the LED lighting. Huether has received 70 public art commissions and 175 private commissions in his 30 years of experience, and often uses LED lighting.
“Working with light is very important … because it’s kind of a dark, unfriendly passageway right now, and we’re going to make it very bright, and exciting, and fun to be there,” Huether said.
Huether was selected out of 28 artists to renovate the pathway between Starbucks and Earthly Goods that leads from Main Street to the Thomas Theatre.
This project hasn’t been as easy as just deciding what concept to use. The wall of Earthly Goods is private property and can not be touched at all by the artist. This means he can’t paint or hang anything from the wall. There’s also the issue of bulky, ugly utility boxes lining the corridor.
At the meetings, Huether shared many projects he’s worked on over the years that also proved difficult with access to space. He reassured worried citizens that neither project would prove more apt to vandalism than the other, or become damaged from people who may try to inappropriately climb the structures.
With the projects he shared, he made it clear that he’s a professional at creating a “sense of place,” a term he used repeatedly in explaining the public art concepts.
“I’m a little old fashioned when it comes to art, I think it should be beautiful and inspiring,” Huether said.
Huether said he doesn’t have a signature style, but uses various mediums and design constructs.
The corridor was one of many areas recommended years ago for renovation by the Downtown Beautification Committee. The City Council approved the concept and directed the Public Arts Commission to oversee the project. The commission began a detailed and lengthy artist selection process June 2016, said Sandy Friend, chair of the Public Arts Commission. The budget for the project is $110,000, which comes from a set-aside portion of the transient occupancy tax, sometimes called bed tax.
“Public art is my passion and I try to be wherever there is a community that has passion about their community and interest in public art,” Huether said. “I am thrilled to be here.”
—Email Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at firstname.lastname@example.org.