ABERDEEN - A sculpture honoring the memory of Kurt Cobain will be installed at a park inspired by him and abutting the bridge he used to visit as a youth in Aberdeen.
Cobain grew up in Aberdeen. He ended a rapid rise to success as the lead singer and guitarist of the legendary band Nirvana when he took his own life in 1994.
The sculpture of a large concrete guitar will be unveiled at a ceremony observing the 17th anniversary of Cobain’s death. The ceremony is set for 1 p.m. April 5 at the park next to the Young Street Bridge in North Aberdeen.
The sculpture is designed by Kim and Lora Malakoff, who lived on the Harbor for a time but now call Clallam Bay home.
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“I first moved to Aberdeen right after Kurt Cobain died,” Lora Malakoff said. “And I was always surprised there was nothing here to memorialize him. I had always hoped there would be. As one generation goes and another takes over, things change. That’s what happened here with Kurt Cobain.”
Just a few years ago, visitors to Aberdeen would have had trouble locating a single indication that Cobain had ever lived there, beyond word-of-mouth directions to some of his hangouts, homes he lived in or weed-covered properties he would hang out at as a youth.
“We’ve come a long way from those days,” Chamber of Commerce President LeRoy Tipton said, acknowledging Cobain’s presence in the chamber’s visitor guide these days when years ago nary a word would be found.
In 2005, the fan-driven Kurt Cobain Memorial Foundation raised enough money to install a new sign telling visitors to “Come As You Are” below the “Welcome to Aberdeen” sign near the bluff in East Aberdeen. The phrase is the name of one of Nirvana’s most popular songs.
In the years since, the foundation has hosted charity concerts in efforts to raise money for a youth center it wants to build in Kurt’s name.
Cobain has been honored with an Art Walk featuring a look-alike contest, and several businesses have been selling Cobain memorabilia and merchandise.
The city also has jumped on the grunge star’s bandwagon, adopting “Come As You Are” as its unofficial slogan. It’s stenciled in letters on a giant mirror in the city’s Finance Department, the first thing residents notice while paying their water bill. Among other places, the phrase adorns the mayor’s ceremonial keys to the city that he hands out. Cobain also is honored with a star on the sidewalk in front of the former location of Rosevear’s Music Center in downtown Aberdeen, part of the city’s “Walk of Fame.”
“I’m not a fan of his music, but I respect him as an artist,” Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson said. “And I think it’s a good thing the city has devoted some time and energy to honor Kurt Cobain.”
The city’s Tourism Advisory Committee designated $1,500 toward this new sculpture at the park next to the Young Street Bridge.
The money comes from those who come to town, stay in local motels and pay the city’s lodging tax.
“Kurt Cobain attracts probably hundreds if not thousands of people to this area, and they spend money here,” Simpson said. “It’s money well-spent.”
In 2008, Tori Kovach and friend Denny Jackson persuaded the city to do some grading work near the Young Street Bridge.
It was an area frequented by hundreds if not thousands of people, looking for a place to remember Cobain. The site on the Wishkah River is part of Cobain lore because that’s where he is said to have spent some time as a youth and it’s mentioned in his song “Something in the Way.”
Kovach lived next door to the property abutting the bridge and watched dozens of people crawl through blackberry bushes and brambles to get under the bridge. It took him four years to slowly chop away the vines.
The area now has several benches, a picnic table, a large sign bearing Cobain’s likeness and information about him and his music.
Kovach said he’s always wanted to get a sculpture up honoring Cobain. It’s just taken a few years to get everything together.
Kovach installed the concrete base for the sculpture years ago. Last summer, he connected with the Malakoffs after seeing one of their sculptures at the Westport Winery.
Working with Kovach, the Malakoffs designed a sculpture based on the left-handed guitar Cobain used on the In Utero tour, which happened to be one of his last tours.
The 81/2-foot sculpture made out of concrete will stand on the 3-foot base. Besides the concrete guitar, there will be a steel ribbon dangling in the air with the lyrics, “One more special message to go and then I’m done and I can go home.”
The lyrics come from the Nirvana song “On a Plain,” and Lora Malakoff said it took her hours to find “the perfect phrase for Aberdeen.”
“Even though he was one messed-up kid, he was really talented and he did something amazing,” she said. “He touched an entire generation in a profound way across the world.”