Not all landmarks are statues or buildings or artifacts from an earlier time. Some of them start out their existence as works of art and somehow, over time, become something bigger.
Several public art pieces by artist David Govedare fit that model exactly – the much photographed “The Joy of Running Together” metal sculptures by Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane, often festooned in T-shirts for the annual springtime Bloomsday run; the “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies” metal sculpture above the Columbia River at Vantage, seen clearly from I-90 while transiting the state; and, of course, the larger-than-life eagle and osprey feathers gracing Northwest Boulevard as one drives into Coeur d’Alene (done in collaboration with Grand Coulee artist Keith Powell).
And sometimes it’s interesting to take a look at something not yet a landmark, but perhaps on its way to becoming one, especially if it’s from an artist like Govedare.
In 2010 the artist completed “Forever … In the Moment,” and while it may not be sited in as visible a location as his other pieces, it, too, has concepts in common with its more famous predecessors – though quite different in design. It consists of two aluminum and steel sculptures with glass accents that stand out in the athletic fields at the 76-acre Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in northwest Spokane.
What they all have in common, the artist said, is how they are appropriate to their location, that they interact with and reflect their surroundings. And they are all something of a surprise, at first seen off in the distance and then, through the natural course of people’s movement, viewed closer up. There are the horses up on a bluff as you drive around a corner at Vantage, the huge feathers as you come off the freeway into the Idaho city, the runners at the edge of a park alongside a busy road. And there out in the playfields is “Forever … In the Moment.”
This most recent work was paid for as a public artwork from the 2007 bond issue that funded several aquatics and sports facilities in the city. Standing 16-feet tall, the sculptures feature colorful hoops designed to mimic motion and were put in place, after four months of creative work, with the reopening of the sports complex last summer.
“The challenge with this project was that it’s a gigantic site,” said Karen Mobley, director of the Spokane Arts Commission. “We wanted something visually iconic to stand out on a large and busy site, something that could be seen from a long distance away. And that’s just what we got, this wonderful work that is a beautiful abstraction of motion.”
Govedare, who himself participated in sports as a young man, said he intentionally created in the Merkel sculptures a central focal point around which the rhythmic chaos of athletics (in the form of the hoops) are placed. Just before a tennis player serves an ace, a basketball player hits a three-pointer, a baseball player hits a homerun – it’s there in that moment when time tends to stop, he said. “There’s the centered moment, the point of focus.”
Govedare, 60, who has resided on his 35 acres bordering a state forest in Chewelah, Wash., for the past 38 years, came to the area as a California Polytechnic Institute architecture student during Expo ’74, interning with an architect who worked on one of the pavilions at the fair. He never left.
“I learned I didn’t want to limit my creativity to designing buildings indoors,” he said. “I was more shop oriented.” He has created works of art on public display all across the nation and credits his father Alford, a mechanical engineer, for teaching him all his welding and other shop skills, and his mother, Lucretia, who he describes as a philosopher, for most of his gifts. Govedare’s parents are living in Ashland, Ore.
Will “Forever … In the Moment” gain landmark status? Mobley notes that some of Govedare’s sculptures portraying motion, like the runners and the ponies, already have. We’ll just have to wait and see.