What makes Kirkland unique is the integration of public art within the city

Kirkland is well known for its public art. It is difficult to stroll or drive through the downtown without coming across one of the more than twenty sculptures in the city's collection. One of the main responsibilities of the Kirkland Cultural Council is to manage and grow Kirkland's public art collection.

Last summer, we were able to help save three of our most popular sculptures through the generosity of over 600 donors. Close Quarters, the oversized bunnies on the corner of Lake and Central, and the Bounding Mule Deer at the entrance of Carillon Pt. and Mountain Comrades, the soon-to-be reinstalled bears on the corner of State Street and Kirkland Avenue are now in the city's permanent collection.

When you look at these three pieces along with the entire public art collection, you realize we've created something very unique to this city - within a quarter-mile radius you can view over 13 different pieces of public art. Other cities define an open space or dedicate a section of a park for a short amount of time to house a sculpture garden. What makes Kirkland unique is the integration of public art within the city itself.

In Kirkland we have created a sculpture garden woven into the very fabric of our city. Our city is our sculpture garden. Go shopping, grab a coffee, go out to dinner, take a stroll and you'll encounter a large number of works set against the natural beauty of the lake and our parks. All this is was created by people who value art as part of our daily lives.

Moving forward, the Cultural Council will add to this sculpture garden by focusing on three goals: expanding the city's public art collection, diversifying the kind of public art in Kirkland and integrating art into areas of the city outside of the downtown core.

For example, the Cultural Council has worked with Sound Transit and artist Christine Bourdette to add sculptures that will appear near the Kingsgate park-and-ride. In addition, expect to see artist Vicki Scuri's abstract design on the walls of the on and off ramps along I-405, once the 128th St. overpass is complete. Integrating public art into the walls of I-405 was no easy task, but a great example of how to integrate design and beauty into everyday objects using the same materials that would have been used.

Another initiative involves hiring a planning artist for public amenities in the Totem Lake Mall redevelopment. The idea here is to integrate design from the ground up to make the greatest impact and allow for the most efficient use of public art funds. Rather than simply adding sculptures at the end of the project, art can be integrated at the design phase into everyday materials used to build the plaza, often blending form and function.

This type of integration can be seen in cities like Seattle where standard street-level utility covers are replaced by artist-designed hatches pressed with relief-maps of the city or with cartoon-like faces peering up at passers-by.

In SeaTac, lighting was provided by tree-like sculptures instead of by standard lampposts. By blending design and function from the ground up, we will save money and create unique gathering places with a distinctive identity.

The integration of art into our daily lives contributes greatly to the feel of our community. Moving forward, the Cultural Council will continue to focus on finding ways to not only expand the city's public art collection, but to find ways to make Kirkland's public spaces more 'public' through the integration of art.

Robert Larson is the chair of the Kirkland Cultural Council.[[In-content Ad]]