Whatever your art budget, whatever your taste, yours could be the deciding vote on Olympia’s next public art purchase — a purchase that could cost the city up to $10,000.
The city’s fifth annual Percival Plinth Project kicks off Friday (July 31). Fifteen new sculptures — all by Washington artists — have been installed on the plinths, or sculpture stands, along the landing, and residents and visitors alike are welcome to vote for their favorite through Aug. 31.
The piece that receives the most votes will become part of the city’s permanent collection.
While other cities in the region have similar exhibitions, Stephanie Johnson of Olympia’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Department knows of no other where the people have the power to say which piece gets purchased.
“We have our own spin on it,” she said. “Other cities have a people’s choice award, but it’s not a purchase prize.”
Voters must view all the works in person and submit a paper ballot.
It’s an old-fashioned process compared with liking images on Facebook, which is the process the city is using to select designs to wrap traffic control boxes. (Voting for that competition closes Friday (July 31). Go to facebook.com/cityofolympia for information.)
“The traffic box designs are two-dimensional and temporary,” Johnson said. “I think trying out the digital voting is appropriate for that project.”
The traffic control box designs have attracted more than 20,000 likes; the 20 designs with the most likes will be fabricated on vinyl and installed.
“With a sculpture, it’s important to kick the tires,” she said. “This is something that is going to be in the community for a very long time.
“It’s a larger community investment, and so it deserves an actual physical appraisal.”
Last year, 481 people voted for the winning sculpture, Leo E. Osborne’s “Illuminated One.” That’s nearly 1 percent of Olympia’s population, although not all voters were residents.
The event, including the kickoff reception, brings lots of attention to the sculptors’ work.
“It’s fun to have a sculpture down there and to walk people by it and say, ‘I made that,’” said Don Freas of Olympia, whose “Culture (Ring Dance No. 10)” is on display on Sylvester Street at Percival Landing.
It’s the fourth year that one of Freas’ welded-steel sculptures has been part of the exhibit.
He has sold two sculptures as a direct result of participating in the exhibition, he said. “Ring Dance No. 2: Core,” displayed as part of the 2012 plinth project, was purchased by the Parking and Business Improvement Area Board and installed at Fourth Avenue and Franklin Street.
“I’m sure the city wouldn’t have bought that one if it hadn’t been on the plinth,” he said.
Freas is excited about the new crop of sculptures, the largest group yet.
“There are some intriguing ones this year,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve only glanced at some of them, but I’m enjoying what I’m seeing, and I look forward to the opening to get a closer look at some of them.”
The artists lend their pieces to the city for the year, and those that don’t win the popular vote are available for purchase.
Besides Freas, this year’s artists are Kevin Au, Karston Boysen, Colleen R. Cotey, Kyle Dillehay, Louise McDowell, Lin McJunkin, Marilyn Murch, Ulrich Pakker, Sylvia Perle, Rodger Squirrell, Leon White and Milo White.
PERCIVAL LANDING SCULPTURE EXHIBITION
What: The city of Olympia is kicking off the fifth Percival Plinth Project. Fifteen sculptures have been installed at Percival Landing for a year-long exhibition. Visitors to the exhibition can vote for their favorite. After voting closes Aug. 31, the city will purchase the sculpture with the most votes.
When: The opening reception is 5:30-7 p.m. Friday (July 31). Voting ends Aug. 31, and the exhibit continues till next July.
Where: Percival Landing, with the opening reception at Harbor House, 325 Columbia St. NW, Olympia.
Voting: Ballots will be available at the reception and near the sculptures. Voters must view all 15 sculptures. Ballots can be submitted at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia, or at the boat moorage kiosk on the landing or can be mailed to the center.
Sculptures that won the popular vote in previous years have become part of the city’s permanent collection:
2011: “King Salmon” by Dan Klennert is in West Bay Park, 700 West Bay Drive NW, Olympia.
2012: “Windstar” by Ross Matteson has been installed at Port Plaza at the Port of Olympia.
2013: “Rainforest Dream,” by Leo E. Osborne, has been on view for the past year at City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia and soon will be installed in the Rose Garden at Priest Point Park.
2014: “Illuminated One,” also by Osborne, is on display at City Hall and will be moved to another location after a year.