Cheney artist Richard Warrington, who created a sculpture for Spokane Valley last year, is upset that city officials have decided to store the artwork at its road maintenance facility until Balfour Park is fully developed across from City Hall.
The Spokane Valley Arts Council commissioned the 12-foot high fabricated aluminum sculpture, “Heart of the Valley,” from Warrington, whose art has been showcased locally, nationally, as well as in Europe, South America, Asia and Canada.
The sculpture, which features a red wave representing the heart of the Valley surrounded by silver waves representing people of the Valley, was funded partially with more than $30,000 in grant money awarded to the arts council by Spokane Valley in 2017. The arts council donated the sculpture to the city.
Warrington, 72, is concerned the sculpture is sitting uncovered in the city’s maintenance facility and could be damaged by chemicals.
“I don’t know how those chemicals they use on roads are going to affect it,” he said. “Just that stuff being in the air by my sculpture is not making me real happy.”
City officials considered several placement sites for the sculpture last September, including a section of “gateway property” near Interstate 90 and Appleway Boulevard adjacent to the city’s welcome sign, CenterPlace Regional Event Center, Balfour Park, and the Appleway Trailhead.
They concluded visibility of the sculpture would be obscured by traffic at the Appleway Trailhead on University Road.
City staff also discussed placing the sculpture at a temporary site, but the city indicated it would incur costs each time they moved the 2,000-pound piece.
“One thing we are certain of, this is not a piece that lends itself well to moving to multiple times,” said Mark Calhoun, city manager for Spokane Valley at a council meeting last year.
Ultimately, City Council selected Balfour Park as a site for the sculpture and opted to place the artwork in storage until the park was fully developed.
“We did our best to try and find a potential, reasonable site,” said Mike Stone, parks director for Spokane Valley. “Council was interested in the fact it was titled “Heart of the Valley” and felt it should be somewhere central for the city, rather than just place it somewhere where it wouldn’t be appropriate for the arts council or the artist.”
Warrington said as an artist, success is defined by having sculptures placed in public and private settings across the U.S., where they can be shared and enjoyed by people.
He said he just wants the sculpture in the public and it could be years before Balfour Park is developed.
“If that’s where they want to put it, by the time they get around to it, (the sculpture) is going to be a mess,” he said. “I’m real frustrated. I can’t believe it. The idea with artists is you do these works, you get exposure and you get reactions from people. I worked for six months and got nothing.”
“The sculpture was supposed to be a fun, uplifting piece representing the people of Valley. I just want people to know what the situation is and let them make their call on it,” he added. “The clock is ticking, so I hope that the people of our fair cities will come together and move this project forward.”
Spokane Valley City Council and the Spokane County Library District board approved a plan in 2013 to develop more than 8 acres across from City Hall on Sprague Avenue into a library and city park that would incorporate the existing Balfour Park.
Plans for the site include a civic plaza, fountain, picnic shelter, performance space, walking paths and locations for public art.
The agreement between the county’s library board and the city’s parks and recreation department aims to “make the site a real centerpiece for the Valley, a once in a lifetime opportunity to help define our community for the next 50 to 100 years,” according to city documents.
Although the city has yet to determine a construction date for the library and the Balfour Park expansion, it has allocated more than $1.4 million for development and $460,000 for frontage improvements.
Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins said at a council meeting last year he’s confident the city will focus on developing Balfour Park “sooner rather than later” and the intention is to get the sculpture out of storage “as quickly as we can.”
Higgins said discussions about development of Balfour Park could occur within a year, but the county hasn’t finalized their plan for the library.
“Things in government never happen as fast as you’d like it to happen,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re taking good care of that statue.”
Stone said the city is planning to update its parks and recreation master plan this year.
“If we move forward, Balfour Park will be looked at in that process. Additionally, there seems to be interest in groups using that space for events,” he said. “I think because of that interest, it’s another motivation for the city to take a look at the (Balfour Park) master plan.”
The arts council commissioned “Heart of the Valley” before it approached City Council for placement and James Harken, art director for the arts council, expressed concern with coordinating delivery of sculptures with the city at a council meeting last month.
The Spokane Valley Arts Council has donated five sculptures to the city since 2009; three of those sculptures, “Berry Picker,” “Coup Ponies,” and “Woman With Horse” were placed outside of City Hall. Two sculptures, “Dance of Sun and Moon,” and “Working the Line” were installed near CenterPlace Regional Event Center.
Stone said the city recently implemented regulations on how it accepts donations of artwork and has a process to complete when deciding placement of sculptures, such as “Heart of the Valley.”
“We sincerely are appreciative of the sculpture,” he said. “The city recognizes the importance of the sculpture and we aren’t going to do anything that is going to harm or damage the sculpture while it sits waiting for placement.”
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