January 27, 2009 in City

Revived Rogers features fresh ‘spirit’

Sculpture funded by state commission
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The gleaming brushed-aluminum sculpture high on a brick wall at Rogers High School reminds one student of an ancient pictograph.

To Principal Carole Meyer, the imagery of wind-swept mountains and Native figures suggests the scenery surrounding her northeast Spokane school – on a clear day Mount Spokane is visible from the windows in the new library.

To most of the teenagers bustling between classes, the new artwork is just a shiny piece of metal that goes unnoticed.

But sculptor-welder David Govedare hopes students will look up and find it stimulating.

“Simply put, it’s a big stamp of nothing and everything all combined,” said Govedare, who was commissioned to create the piece through the state Art in Public Places program.

The sculpture, called “Spirit of the Great Northwest,” will be dedicated Wednesday to celebrate the completion of the second phase of Rogers’ $64.8 million reconstruction.

The community also is invited to tour the original 1932 art deco portion of Rogers, including the original theater, restored to some of its former glory. The sculpture was completed a year ago and is visible from the commons and cafeteria.

“It’s a very empowering place, because all the kids come in and gather and eat their lunches there,” said Govedare, who is known for his iron Bloomsday runners in Riverfront Park and the wild horses at the Columbia River gorge. “That wall jumped out and said, ‘Something needs to go here.’ … It felt a little like a penitentiary before.”

The sculpture, which is 22 feet by 11 feet, will remain at the school but belongs to the state, part of a collection of 4,500 artworks.

The piece cost about $45,000, school district officials said; with tight budgets, they were quick to point out that they did not pay for it.

The funding comes from the Washington State Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places program, created by the Legislature in 1974. The program gets one-half of 1 percent of construction budgets for all state-owned buildings.

“We are the second-oldest percent-for-art program in the country. Hawaii is first,” said Mike Sweney, program manager for the arts commission.

The commission handles the acquisition, placement and stewardship of the artwork, working with a committee of school administrators, architects, students and community members to select artists and projects. In 2007-’08, $723,670 was budgeted for artwork in public schools across the state.

Spokane’s Lidgerwood and Ridgeview elementary schools received art through the program last summer; Progress Elementary is beginning the process of acquiring art now, said Melanie Rose, Central Valley spokeswoman. Both CV and University high schools installed artwork when they opened in 2002.

Mead School District took advantage of the program when Prairie View Elementary and the new Mountainside Middle School were built, said John Dormaier, director of facilities and planning.

The commission requires that a construction project be large enough to generate $25,000 or more for the art.

In March, Spokane Public Schools will ask voters to approve a $288 million construction bond to support the second phase of a 25-year plan to replace aging buildings.

Sara Leaming can be reached at (509) 459-5533 or sarale@spokesman.com.

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