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Downtown Spokane art project to feature giant hearts

Mike Forness, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest, shows off a blank fiberglass heart. The Ronald McDonald House is preparing to do a community art project this fall. They’ll place 40 hearts decorated by local artists around the city. They previously did bears and carousel animals. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Mike Forness, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest, shows off a blank fiberglass heart. The Ronald McDonald House is preparing to do a community art project this fall. They’ll place 40 hearts decorated by local artists around the city. They previously did bears and carousel animals. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

This fall, vibrantly painted giant hearts will begin to appear on the streets of downtown Spokane as part of a community art project headed up by Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest.

A similar project distributed 42 large painted bears throughout Spokane in 2005 and 27 carousel animals, including tigers and horses, that were decorated and distributed in 2006 and 2007.

Downtown Spokane is in a period of growth, and Ronald McDonald House Charities Executive Director Mike Forness said he wants his organization to be a part of that.

“It’s a project, from our experience, that raises the excitement level in downtown Spokane,” he said. “We want to celebrate that by doing our third community art project.”

The project will also raise awareness about Ronald McDonald House and the work they do to help families with children receiving medical treatment at local hospitals, Forness said.

A red heart on the side of the Ronald McDonald House on Fifth Avenue inspired the selection of a heart for the art project, Forness said.

“Ronald McDonald House is the house that love built,” he said.

The project was first discussed in April.

The hearts are made of fiberglass and stand 39 inches high, 42 inches wide and 20 inches deep. They will be mounted on elevated bases.

The art project is in its early stages. A call for artists was recently announced and the artists who will decorate the hearts were selected last week.

“We got over 70 (proposals),” Forness said. “Some people sent in more than one.”

The names of the artists selected have not yet been released.

“We got some great submissions,” he said. “There is just a great diversity of designs that really reflects the artist. We had no criteria on the designs at all.”

The designs themselves are not being disclosed until they are unveiled in September. “It’s all the way from nature scenes to city scenes to abstracts, impressionism, all those,” he said.

Ronald McDonald House is partnering with STCU to present the project, and artist Karen Mobley has been assisting in the process, Forness said.

About 40 hearts will be delivered to the artists this week. They’ll have a month to complete them. Businesses can pay $3,000 to sponsor a heart.

Several of the hearts will be unveiled during the Lexus Polo Classic in Airway Heights that benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities on Sept. 9. They will begin to be installed downtown the week of Sept. 10. The hearts will be auctioned off at a gala in February.

“There’s no city in the United States, to our knowledge, that has done three community art projects,” he said. “I think that shows you how special Ronald McDonald House is and Spokane is.”