A crowd of about 50 people gathered Friday to see the unveiling of a new larger-than-life bronze statue on the north side of CenterPlace. The statue of a Native American woman, titled Berry Picker, is the second to be donated to the city of Spokane Valley by the Spokane Valley Arts Council.
Arts Council president Jim Harken said the group bought the rights to the small statue by created by the late artist Nancy McLaughlin and used computers to scale it larger. The original was only 18 1/2 inches high. “It’s a long project,” he said. “It takes building molds.”
The statue has been bolted into place in a landscaped area on a small hill near CenterPlace. “Nothing is going to move it,” Harken said. It is easily visible to traffic heading south on Mirabeau Parkway and is next to a parking lot if people want to stop and take a closer look.
The Art Council used its annual art auction fundraiser to pay for the piece, the same way it paid for Walking the Line, the mountain man bronze by Colville artist Jerry McKellar that sits just south of the Discovery Playground, that was also donated to the city.
When the tarp was removed from the latest piece, a man in the crowd said, “That’s beautiful,” as everyone applauded. A basalt rock sits next to the statue and is engraved with information about the statue’s creation and dedication. The work features a young Native American woman looking down and to the right, partially covered by a fur wrap. A bag sits at her feet. She is meant to represent a member of the Blackfoot Tribe.
McLaughlin’s daughter, Ann McLaughlin-Metting, attended the unveiling. Her mother was born and raised in Montana and lived next to the Blackfoot reservation, she said. “She always had very strong ties to the Blackfoot people,” she said.
McLaughlin-Metting said her mother never made a statue as large as the one now on display. Her work was always small and finely detailed. “This is the first,” she said. “I was a little nervous about what the end result would be. The details are just so perfect.”
McLaughlin died in 1985 and her daughter describes her as one of the first female Western artists. McLaughlin-Metting said she used to help her mother with her art and would watch her add detail to wax molds with a hot knife. “She did the work herself,” she said. “I used to watch her work.”
Her mother would also be pleased that her work is now on display for all to see. “She always believed art should be seen and enjoyed,” she said. I think she would be really happy that this will be here for 100 years or more. It’s a really nice way for her to live on.”