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Spotlight: Art at Convention Center spice up expansion

With the expansion project at the Spokane Convention Center recently completed, it’s time to take a look at the four new pieces of public art that will grace the indoor and outdoor space.

The center at 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. will host an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, during which the public can check out the new art.

The call for submissions went out two years ago, said Karen Mobley, the project coordinator for Spokane Arts. The pieces include:

• Two pieces from Bill and Karma Simmons, aka 2Simmons. The Spokane couple, who also created the “Pool Day” piece at Comstock Park and a “Dung Beetle” at the Coeur d’Alene waste treatment plant, created a 1,100-foot-long sculptural fence called “Tapestry.” The piece serves as a barrier between the Centennial Trail and the Spokane River, and is intended to represent the river ecosystem and its history.

The fence references the Spokane fire of 1889, the region’s industry, the river’s role as a fishing hub for area Indian tribes, and wildlife.

“Along with those interpretive signs we developed along the river, Bill and Karma’s piece kind of touches on the history of the site as well as the river itself,” Mobley said.

Another piece, an owl called “You elegant fowl!” was donated to the project by the family of Eleanor Hill of Spokane and Spangle. The 16-foot owl made of CorTen steel is in front of the building.

• Speaking of the river ecosystem, Ben Joyce has created “Spokane to Coeur d’Alene,” a large mixed-media work hanging on the west wall.

“He frequently makes paintings that look like an aerial view of a place,” Mobley said.

Created of wood and painted with textured paint in bold colors, the work is an abstract depiction of the Spokane River from Long Lake back to its mouth at Lake Coeur d’Alene. It’s more than 100 feet long and is relatively thin. “It’s really beautiful,” Mobley said. “The resin-coated river and the lake are just luminous in the light.”

Joyce calls his work Abstract Topophilia, and he’s created pieces for the city of Las Vegas transit system, Google and many private clients. He has pieces in the Kootenai County Courthouse and Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene and at Gonzaga University.

• Look up, and you’ll notice Steve Adams’ fabric and light installation, “Memory and Hope.” In a news release, Adams said he was inspired by “the fact that salmon were in my backyard swimming up Latah Creek less than 100 years ago. The memory of those fish gives me hope for their eventual return to the river.”

Adams, a longtime Spokane artist, has large works installed at the Spokane International Airport, Fire Station 1, the Hillyard Library and The Spokesman-Review’s print facility on Monroe Street.

“Steve’s piece is way up in the air in that glass box on the north side of the building,” Mobley said. “It looks really, really dramatic in the space, especially with all the lights on it. It’s got this mysterious quality to it when you look through these layers of fabric to the fish, kind of like when you look over a bridge into the water and you see thing moving beneath the surface, but you can’t quite make out what they are.”

Some older works of art dating back to Expo 74, including some Harold Balazs tapestries, are getting new life in new locations.

“We’ve created some new work, but we’ve also done some repair, relocation and reordering of some of things that already belonged to the convention center,” she said. “So if people are looking for their old favorites, they’re not gone.”


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