As darkness fell Tuesday evening in Riverfront Park, Coeur d’Alene’s Sarah Thompson Moore flipped the lights on her new signature piece of public art.
LED lights emitted a soft glow, catching the aluminum panels of The Seeking Place and acting as a beacon for parkgoers on a hill just below the Pavilion.
“You spend this time coming up with something in your head, but then seeing it in the place that it was designed for, it’s just really rewarding,” Moore said.
Her piece was selected by the Spokane Park Board more than two years ago as the second public art structure to be paid for with some of the money raised by the $64 million in bonds for Riverfront Park’s redevelopment. When the other artwork, Meijin Yoon’s Stepwell, is finished as early as later this year, the redevelopment that began with a groundbreaking in the gondola meadow more than six years ago will be complete.
Moore and Yoone’s pieces were paid for with money set aside in the bond pursuant to a city law, which requires at least 1% of a public construction project’s budget to go toward public art. Spokane Parks set aside $168,000 for The Seeking Place, and Stepwell is estimated to cost about a half million dollars. Melissa Huggins, executive director of the nonprofit Spokane Arts, said that dedicated funding has led to a portfolio of public art, such as The Seeking Place, that continues to wow visitors.
“I think sometimes, as folks who live here, we might sort of take it for granted,” Huggins said.
The aluminum panels that stand up to 12 feet tall are intended to evoke the columnar basalt that can be seen throughout the region. They’re anodized, Moore said, which means they’re treated with chemicals and electrical charges that protect against corrosion while also giving the material a colorful brilliance that changes with the angles of the sunlight.
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward noted the colors, and the perforations in the metal, will provide visitors with unique experiences throughout the day.
“Each time you visit, and walk by the piece, it will look a little different,” said Woodward, as the setting sun started to hide behind the old Washington Water Power building and sent streams of circular light onto the hillside.
Spokane Park Board President Jennifer Ogden said Moore’s geologically inspired design made her “a rock star.”
“Sarah is evoking the geology of our region,” Ogden said.
Moore said the idea for the piece had been “percolating” in the back of her head since early 2020. The lights and perforations were always part of the idea, she said, to highlight the beauty at the center of the park as well as the Pavilion’s light show in the distance.
“You can see, not only parts of the piece, through itself, but you can also see what’s behind the sculpture,” she said. “And when you’re outside, you can see inside; when you’re inside, you can see outside of it.”
An accessible path, constructed by the firm Terrabella, leads to the hillside just southwest of the Pavilion. The structure doubles back on itself, providing a modest, maze-like path for visitors to navigate, and there is seating within that was paid for with donations by Spokane Rotary 21.
One of those visitors Tuesday night was Moore’s grandfather, Ralph Edward Moore, who got out of his wheelchair to walk through the sculpture with the assistance of a cane. It was his first time seeing his granddaughter’s work.
“I love it,” he said. “You feel kind of a sense of, the columns in the real world. I like the overlapping, too.”
Moore said now that it’s complete, the piece will stand on its own to speak to visitors working their way through the park.
“I do come back and visit my work, and I plan to, because I really want to see how it interacts throughout the seasons,” said Moore, who also has a piece, Convergence, at the South Gorge trailhead in People’s Park that honors Indigenous fishing traditions. “From here on out, it becomes everybody’s work.”
Riverfront Park is open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight.
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