Steely and mirror-like, the new sculptures on either side of Spokane’s new pedestrian bridge are, quite literally, places of reflection.
Called “Rooted and Soaring,” the conical and shiny pieces were done by two local artists, Shani Marchant and the late Lea Anne Scott, and installed last week at the north and south landings of the University District Gateway Bridge.
Marchant, a watercolorist and oil painter who lives in Spokane, said the sculptures are meant to “reflect the world around us, while creating an interactive and inspiring piece.”
In that way, the pieces are like “The Bean” in Chicago, one of the more recognizable, and selfie-prone, public art pieces in the U.S. officially called “Cloud Gate.”
“They reflect the setting – the sky, the clouds, the buildings and landscape, and maybe most importantly the people passing by and viewing them,” Marchant said in an email.
Marchant and Scott began developing the idea for the sculptures more than five years ago but “kept coming back to the idea of the cone shape.”
“We felt it worked well with the design of the bridge,” she said.
“Rooted,” at the north end of the bridge with the cone’s tip embedded in the earth, “honors the strongly rooted traditions of education and largely reflects what you see on the ground.”
“Soaring,” at the south landing and pointing up, is about “growth and renewal and reflects more of the sky,” Marchant said.
The 2,000-pound, 15-foot sculptures were manufactured by Portland-based Pioneer Tank & Vessel, and commissioned by Spokane Arts, which maintains and administers public art in Spokane.
Karen Mobley, the former city arts director who now runs the public art selection process for Spokane Arts, the nonprofit that replaced her now-defunct department, said in a statement that the sculptures are an “abstract work” describing the title of the pieces.
“Rooted is about weight. Soaring is about movement,” she said. “The two shapes echo one another.”
Scott has more than 15 public sculptures around the U.S., including “Heritage Museum Gateway” in Plano, Texas, “Fibonacci Plaza” in Coral Springs, Florida, and “Baseball Columns” in Kent, Washington.
Scott was one of five people killed during the major Inland Northwest windstorm of 2015 that left 380,000 people without power. Just as the storm was beginning, the top of a tall pine snapped off and fell into Scott’s backyard at 14th Avenue and Walnut Street, striking her and taking out power lines and a fence.
Scott grew up in Newport, Rhode Island and lived in Port Townsend, Washington, before moving to Spokane in 1992 to raise her three children. She had a bachelor’s degree in studio art and history from Gonzaga University.
During the last years of her life, Scott did much of her art in the garage studio behind her house, where she created sculptures inspired by nature. She once said she “connected with nature at a deep spiritual level as a child,” – a refuge from what she described as a traumatic childhood.
“These experiences may have set me apart from others and were perhaps the impetus for me to build my own personal reality,” Scott told The Spokesman-Review in 2011. “Seeking a place of freedom from the harsh judgment of those around me, I found nature to be a refuge.”
Completing the bridge’s sculptures was important to honor both Spokane and Scott, Marchant said.
“We had been working on the project for almost two years at the time of Lea Anne’s death. It was a big deal to both of us to do a piece of art for Spokane,” Marchant said. “We felt like it was kind of a shared legacy for our community and our families. It then became very important to me personally to complete the project to honor our friendship. … For me, completing this sculpture project and seeing them installed is like seeing a Phoenix rising – symbolic of the friendship and artistic vision Lea Anne and I shared.”
The bridge, which opened in December, and the sculptures will have a formal dedication on May 7.
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