Andy Fleming

Part of the art: Sculpture at new Foster Library includes community element

Armed with cans of spray paint and stencils, community members gathered in the Foster Library parking lot last month to be a part of the art.

Armed with cans of spray paint and stencils, community members gathered in the Foster Library parking lot last month to be a part of the art.

Aspiring artists – young children to senior citizens – helped decorate 26 steel blades, each 30-foot long, that will be installed as a sculpture, called “Multiplicity”, outside the new Foster Library, slated to open early next year at the corner of Tukwila International Boulevard and South 144th Street.

About 100 community members and local officials came out over two afternoons on a mid-August weekend to help create the work of art.

“All of these members of the community are going to be able to come back and see their contributions,” said Angelina Benedetti, cluster manager for the King County Library System. “We are so grateful to have the opportunity. You just don’t get to be a part of something like this every day.”

Every branch of the KCLS has an art element, Benedetti said, but not all include the community element. The Tukwila Arts Commission and the Library Advisory Board chose to have the community participate.

Seattle artist John Fleming responded to a call to create a piece for the new library a couple of years ago.

“They were looking for something that would really be large on the corner to mark where the library was,” said Fleming, who has an installation, “Grass Blades,” near the Experience Music Project in the Seattle Center. “I was starting to do projects where we invite people from the community to do part of the work. We felt like here it especially works. Tukwila is so diverse, and we wanted the work to be less about me and more about everybody. They might take ownership if they are participating. They feel like it belongs to them.”

Prior art experience was not required to take part in the project.

“There’s 3-year-old kids to 75- to 80-year-old adults,” he said. “The way (the beams) will be split apart (when installed) I think then it starts to diffuse and become more abstract.”

Using paint in a rainbow of colors, people sprayed a variety of shapes and designs over the red coating on the steel beams. Some painted words or flags representing the countries they came from. Some used provided stencils to create hearts, stars, circles or arrows, while others made their own more elaborate stencils or painted freehand.

Fleming and his son, Andy, were on site to oversee the painting and help anyone needing tips or inspiration.

“We wanted something that would be big and bold, something that is organic,” John Fleming said. “On the outside it will be just rusty steel, and you’ll get these bright colors on the inside of the spirals, something that would move and be engaging in that process, so you are almost wanting to go up and touch this thing.”

The blades decrease in thickness from 1½ inches at the base to a half-inch at the top, allowing the sculpture to sway slightly.

The steel blades, each weighing 650 pounds, were fabricated by Ponderosa Forge and Ironworks in Sisters, Ore., and brought by truck to Tukwila, where they were unloaded by forklift onto the Foster Library parking lot. Workers raised a tent around the blades to protect them from the elements while they were painted. The library had a staff member on the site around the clock for the weekend to keep watch. The painted blades will be stored until they are installed at their new home later this year.

The new library is two blocks west of the current facility and will anchor Tukwila Village, a mixed-use development that will include apartments, a neighborhood police resource center, retail, restaurants, public meeting space and an outdoor plaza.

Most of the $8 million price tag on the library will be covered by the $172 million capital bond passed by county voters in 2004.

The KCLS Foundation Board agreed to raise an additional $1 million to build a 10,000-square-foot facility rather than the proposed 8,000-square-foot library.

At almost twice the size of the current 5,200-square-foot facility, the new library will include more materials, computers, space for children and teens and a community meeting room.

The Tukwila School District has an agreement with KCLS to purchase the current Foster Library building for $1.19 million to house its technology and maintenance/operations departments.

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