Council continues consideration of “Angel” statue
— Created August 25, 2021 by Kacie Jo Voeller
By Kacie Jo Voeller
After months of extensive discussion, the “Angel de la Creatividad” statue by world-recognized artist Sebastian may be finding a new home on Whidbey Island. At the Aug. 4 Oak Harbor City Council meeting, council members continued discussion around the 37-foot statue.
The council delayed acting on the item based on concerns surrounding the nature of the discussion, as it was listed as “informational” as opposed to an action item on the meeting’s agenda. The council also stated the gifting agreement needs to be signed by the executor of George Drake’s estate before the council would consider supporting a motion recommending the mayor sign the agreement. Therese Kingsbury, president of Sculpture Northwest (SNW), a nonprofit organization which will act as the project manager for the endeavor, said Al Zimmerman expressed intent to sign the gift agreement but has not yet been able to do so as he is out of the country.
“Al Zimmerman sent an email saying he was planning on signing the document the way it was written,” Kingsbury said.
Members did agree to make a motion to put further discussion of the statue on the Sept. 7 meeting agenda as an action item, given the necessary document was signed by the executor. The statue has been under consideration by Oak Harbor since late in 2020, according to SNW. While initially offered to Bellingham by the estate of George Drake and its executor, a location in Oak Harbor eventually became an option. Kingsbury said she hopes recent discussion by city council will lead to the eventual installation of the artwork.
“I think by having the delays and having some of the controversy that it (the project) will end up being the best that it can be,” Kingsbury said.
The Aug. 4 meeting also saw a number of city councilors expressing support for moving forward with the project. Millie Goebel, a member of the council, said she was hopeful about the statue becoming a fixture in its proposed future location, Windjammer Park.
“I am really excited,” she said. “Seeing those pictures of its future home gets me really excited about the potential and, fingers crossed, those welds come back and look great, so I am just extremely grateful for all the hard work. I know this has been kind of a long road and it has been a little bit challenging at times.”
The sculpture has been a subject of often heated debate in the community, with social media platforms and a Zencity survey showing a number of negative responses and comments.
The city put together a survey to further gauge public opinion, but later discussed the shortcomings of the information provided when presented at the June 30 council workshop. Of 760 respondents, 199 supported accepting the statue, 537 did not, and 24 had no opinion. Gideon Cauffman, archaeologist and administrator assigned to the Oak Harbor Arts Commission and liaison for the project, said the survey was put together on an expedited timeline and only ran from June 2-16. Representatives at SNW also expressed the survey did not include enough background about the artwork and said they were not consulted prior to the survey’s release.
“We need to broaden our timelines,” Cauffman said. “When things are rushed through, it could cause issues.”
Many residents who expressed concern over the project stated hopes for the return of a windmill installation in Oak Harbor. The intent of the project was clarified in additional information provided by SNW, prepared by Richard Nash, an artist and member of the organization.
“The AOC (‘Angel of Creativity’) project is not, nor ever was intended, to be in competition with any other upcoming projects in Oak Harbor,” the release stated. “In fact, Kingsbury and Nash support a ‘windmill project’ and have offered to help when the time comes.”
In regard to the next steps if the statue is formally accepted, Kingsbury said SNW has worked to have contractors ready to go. Pending the statue’s approval, geotechnical work, final engineering specs and site preparations would still need to be completed.
“We are ready,” she said. “Everybody is in line to start doing their jobs as far as geotech, ordering the pin-piles, getting her (the statue) sandblasted and having her welds checked and corrected and then having her powder coated and painted.”
Kingsbury said she hopes the piece will be installed and will generate conversation and draw visitors to the island in the future.
“When it boils down, the story can be negative or positive, but I think it is going to be a really positive story about all the hard work and the angst that came along the way will just fall away,” she said. “And we are going to have something that is world-class and going to bring people to Oak Harbor and I think that is something this community has needed for decades.”
The council will continue discussion of the project at the Sept. 7 meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting can be viewed on youtube.com/cityofoakharbor. For more information, visit sculpturenorthwest.org. City council meeting minutes and supporting documents for the ‘Angel de la Creatividad’ statue project can be located at oakharbor.org/meetings. Whidbey Weekly reached out to several Oak Harbor City Council members, but they failed to respond.