Oak Harbor considers adding “Angel de la Creatividad” sculpture to Windjammer Park

— Created March 17, 2021 by Kacie Jo Voeller

By Kacie Jo Voeller

Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park may soon be home to the “Angel de la Creatividad,” or “Angel of Creativity,” a 37-foot statue by world-famous sculptor Sebastián. Currently, Oak Harbor City Council members are considering the statue and voted unanimously at a Feb. 16 meeting to explore the offer in more detail, with findings to be presented at the March 24 council workshop.

Therese Kingsbury, a member of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission, said the sculpture is a part of the late George Drake’s estate. Drake was an avid supporter of the arts and the statue was initially offered to Bellingham, but the offer was withdrawn by the estate’s executor. She said Drake had expressed his desire to have the statue installed at a waterfront location, and indicated Windjammer Park as a possibility.

“(This is a) world class opportunity that does not get offered to small towns like Oak Harbor ever,” she said. “This is an unexpected gift coming from an unexpected donor with an unexpected storyline.”

Kingsbury said Sebastián, the famous Mexican artist of the “Angel de la Creatividad,” has his work featured around the world, including in Rio de Janeiro, Osaka, San Antonio and more. Kingsbury said she felt the sculpture would help bolster tourism and draw art enthusiasts to the island.

 “It is a magical opportunity that will be a gamechanger for our community and I think that everybody should embrace the gift and enjoy the fact that it is going to bring people, because people will travel to see this sculpture,” she said. 

Many community members have expressed support for the piece, including Karen Koschak, whose public comment was included in the March 2 meeting of the council.

“I’m writing to encourage you and others on the committee to accept the donation of the beautiful artwork,” she wrote. “I am aware that there are those who may not appreciate a modern piece of art, but that is the beauty of art. It inspires and touches each of us differently. It creates conversation and discourse through which we can all learn. There have been many occasions when hearing why someone loves a piece, I have been enabled to have a better appreciation.”

However, there has been concern from community members about the sculpture, including maintenance costs and the piece’s abstract aesthetic. Local social media pages have seen comments from community members expressing reservations, as well as discussion of a desire to have another windmill built in lieu of bringing other art to the city, as the windmill previously located in the park was dismantled starting in 2017 due to deterioration of the building. In the March 2 meeting, a comment by longtime-community resident Gerry Yakovleff was displayed, expressing his thoughts about the sculpture.

“Public art: say no to the donation sculpture being dumped on us by Bellingham,” he wrote. “There is a very good reason that Bellingham turned it down. You should too. The monument is not in keeping with the theme of Oak Harbor as a water way – Pacific Northwest theme. (An) abstract angel is not appropriate for us.”

Kingsbury, who also serves as vice president for Sculpture Northwest, said she hoped community members would see the statue’s installation as a positive step for the community and would help draw visitors.

“This is not about a new windmill, this is just about grasping an opportunity and I think in these times and these days that these kinds of opportunities do not happen very often and a lot of these little communities are struggling,” she said. 

Rodric Gagnon, the chairman of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission, said he encouraged those with thoughts or concerns pertaining to the statue and other city issues to consider getting involved.

“If anybody has opinions that they want the city to hear about, come and participate,” he said. “All our public meetings are public, everything is open to the public for comments and participation. We are always looking for volunteers on the Arts Commission and there is always tons of opportunity to participate and influence how the city spends its taxpayer dollars.”

Gagnon said the commission has also partnered with Sculpture Northwest (the organization Drake founded) to help find a place for the sculpture to be displayed. Gagnon said Drake’s estate is willing to cover installation, transportation and engineering costs minus $35,000 from the city, with the sculpture itself being a gift. Gagnon also said the city has funding for the arts built into its budget.

“We brought it to City Council on a pretty fast track just because the estate of George Drake is pretty anxious to get this piece in the public view, it has been in storage for a long time,” he said. “And when we did bring it in front of City Council on fairly short notice those who had concerns all had prudent, thoughtful concerns and I think we have tried to address all of those and we are going to try to continue to move forward and come up with a solution that makes sense to where the city is not committing to something that they don’t bargain for.”

Local sculptor Sue Taves offered her thoughts on the piece and said she was excited about the possibility of bringing the work of an internationally-known artist to the area.

“I think it is a whole new level of sculpture,” she said. “This is something you might see in the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle or in a major collection,” she said. “It is quite amazing thinking about having the opportunity to have it here and considering how much it would cost if it were being purchased outright, I cannot imagine any of our cities or fundraising being able to come up with something at this budget. I just cannot even understand why anybody would be against it if they were a supporter of the arts at all.”

            Taves said although there were a number of factors to look at and costs associated with upkeep and engineering to be considered, she felt the statue was worth the investment and much of the associated costs would also be covered by the estate.

“It brings positive attention, it has the potential to bring tourism, it engages the community in conversation about art,” she said. “Those are all positive aspects. So I think that would be the thing I would encourage people to do, is just step back and look at it as a gift. That is what it is, it is being given as a gift from somebody who was a major arts supporter in the region. So I would encourage people to think about it on the bigger scale.”

            Public comments can be made to the City of Oak Harbor by visiting the updated page: www.oakharbor.org/publiccomment.