Arts Downtown started small.
But with what started with 15 pieces of art in downtown Puyallup has now morphed into some 60 pieces, making up one of the biggest collections of outdoor sculptures in the area.
Arts Downtown is run solely by volunteers passionate to make art a more integral part of the downtown core of Puyallup. Some of the art is permanent, and the majority is on a two-year rotation. The art on rotation can be purchased to either remain on display or be taken home with the buyer. If the art isn’t purchased or awarded the People’s Choice award, the art leaves town after two years.
Alisa Looney’s piece, Heart Connection, won People’s Choice back in 2010.
“It was fun going up to Puyallup and meeting the mayor for lunch,” the Portland artist said of her experience with the organization. “They do a great job for the community.”
Leslie Ariel’s piece, Big Leg Momma, is also on display in downtown Puyallup.
“They were very pleasant to work with,” Ariel said of her experience. “They are a great set of volunteers who are passionate about art.”
Volunteers with the organization are now working on securing artists for the next two-year rotation, according to Babs Kunkle, arts selection chair.
“Meeting the artists is really wonderful,” Kunkle said of the process of securing art for the next rotation. “We have many local artists, regional artists, international artists ... it’s just wonderful.”
Kunkle says that come June 28, new pieces will arrive, with the goal of having the art closer together to provide a more suitable walking tour of the pieces.
Kunkle and other volunteers such as Rosemary Eckerson have worked diligently to bring in artists. In fact, their hard work has helped their organization to become a mentor program to cities such as Auburn, Des Moines and even Lake Oswego, Oregon. to start their own Arts Downtown.
“We just have really good luck bringing in phenomenal artists,” Eckerson said.
While the organization has been lucky to attract various skilled artists, it hasn’t come without struggle for the organization. Criticism of controversial pieces and recent vandalism incidents keeps the hardworking volunteers of the program on their toes.
While criticizing art isn’t new for the organization, recent vandalism in the last two weeks has volunteers concerned. Artist Patty McPhee’s pink travertine Nautilis, entitled Neptune’s Gift, was stolen off its mounted pedestal.
“(The act is) a far cry from vandalism,” Kunkle said.
Despite the vandalism and long hours volunteers spend bringing downtown to life through art, both Kunkle and Eckerson agree that the organization is a great way to draw more people to downtown Puyallup.
“When new people come into town, usually the first thing that they remark on is the art in downtown,” Eckerson said.
Those with information about the recent theft can call the Puyallup Police Department 253-842-5415 in reference of case number 15003529.
For more information on Arts Downtown, visit artsdowntown.org.