Politics & Government

Boosters get OK to seek permission, money for Warhol flower on Tacoma Dome

The Tacoma City Council gave the nod Tuesday to supporters of a plan to wrap the Tacoma Dome in a brilliant flower designed by world-renowned artist Andy Warhol.

But will the plan blossom? That’s what petal pushers want to find out.

The project is anticipated to cost $5.1 million, but Tacoma officials say none of it will come from city coffers.

The unanimous blessing of the council will allow arts boosters to approach the Andy Warhol Foundation for permission to use the image on the city-owned Dome, and to start raising the funds needed to install what would be the largest Warhol in the world.

Rock Hushka, Tacoma Art Museum’s chief curator, told the council that he’s been in touch with the Warhol foundation, and that it supports the idea. The flower design inspired Warhol’s works long after he entered — and lost — a contest to decorate the Dome in 1982.

With the council’s permission and $5.1 million in private funds, a group of arts supporters would be able to install the vivid flower on the Dome’s 6.5-acre roof. The cost includes a twice-yearly cleaning, a staffer to solicit donations, the cost of removal and a contingency fund in case something goes awry.

Not everyone is a fan of the Warhol design. Karen Jeffery, who said she has a view of the Dome from her home, told the council Tuesday that she sees “a beautiful array of grays and blues” on the Dome’s current quilt-inspired design.

The decal upon which the Warhol design would be printed, Jeffery said, “would, in the heat of summer, blister like a bad sunburn.”

A six-month test patch last year showed mild discoloration. Workers said the decal came off in small pieces and left a residue on the Dome’s cloth shell.

The council’s OK allows the city to form a project committee and approach the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation for help fundraising, said Kim Bedier, public assembly facilities director for the city.

“There are still a lot of unknowns,” Bedier said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Volunteers will help raise money and begin to organize the application to the Warhol foundation, said Amy McBride, city arts administrator.

“Although we own the Warhol proposals, we don’t own the copyright,” McBride said. “The Warhol foundation has to give us the licensing rights to do this.”

The Warhol flower would bring more than 15 minutes of fame to T-Town, Hushka said.

Having a Warhol on the Dome, Hushka said, “will cement our reputation on the national level about the seriousness for which art has become the calling card for Tacoma.”