GO Arts: Bronze blankets, animal explorers and steel boulders commissioned for the exterior of the new Tacoma Art Museum wing

Tacoma News TribuneMarch 19, 2014 

Have a blanket with a story behind it? Bring it into the Tacoma Art Museum this spring and it could become part of an outdoor sculpture by Marie Watt. “Blanket Stories” is one of three works newly commissioned for the exterior of the new Haub wing at Tacoma Art Museum. Scott Fife, whose enormous stitched-cardboard dog Leroy has become the museum’s mascot, and metal sculptor Julie Speidel are the other two artists set to create large sculptures for the front of the newly renovated building which opens in fall 2014.

“We selected proposals from key Northwest artists to create ambitious new works that will activate the spaces around the museum,” said Stephanie Stebich, director of Tacoma Art Museum. “These works will be an inspiration for visitors to Tacoma and the museum for generations to come.”

Each work explores the concept of Western art, which comprises the extensive Haub collection that will fill the new galleries currently being built on Pacific Avenue. Fife’s work “Explorers” – to be unveiled spring 2015 – subverts the usual stereotype by standing a five-foot bronze black bear cub and three-foot eaglet on a wooden raft, exploring a new urban environment. The bronze will be molded on forms created in Fife’s signature cardboard, made to resemble chain-saw-carved wood.

Julie Speidel’s “Erratic Repose” – which, like Watt’s, will be unveiled in fall – links the present with geological history through painted stainless steel sculptures resembling the boulders thrown down by ancient glaciers in the Puget Sound area. The installation will give seating and signal the new entryway from the lower parking lot into the museum.

But it’s Marie Watt’s sculpture that is, for now, the most interactive. A member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Watt uses stacked blankets often in her work as a symbol of both cultural tradition and of community story. Members of the community are invited to donate blankets, submitting them with a story of the blanket’s history. Watt will transform the 400 blankets into a cast bronze sculpture of two columns arching into a loop and crossing each other, indicating either a signature, term of endearment, a name on a treaty or a place marker. The sculpture will then be painted cerulean blue. The blankets’ stories will be preserved in interpretive materials nearby; all contributors will also receive a silkscreen print by Watt.

To donate a blanket, write the blanket’s story on a tag (available at the museum or printable at tacomaartmuseum.org/blanket), bring the blanket in by May 18 and have your photo taken there.

Tacoma Art Museum is located at 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 rosemary.ponnekanti@thenewstribune.com

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