“Angel of Creativity” finds a home in Oak Harbor

— Created September 15, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It has been a long road, but the “Angel de la Creatividad,” or “Angel of Creativity,” a sculpture by world renowned sculptor Sebastian, will be installed in Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor.

The Oak Harbor City Council, in a four-to-one vote last week, ended months of debate on whether to accept the sculpture as a gift from the estate of George Drake.

“I feel like I can breathe for the first time in eight months,” said Therese Kingsbury, president of Sculpture Northwest, a nonprofit organization which will act as the project manager for the sculpture’s installation. It was Kingsbury, along with fellow Sculpture Northwest board member, Richard Nash, who first brought the idea of acquiring the “Angel” to the city in 2019, then again in 2020.

“I’m proud. Proud to carry on George Drake’s vision for art in the Pacific Northwest and keep sculpture relevant to our communities, proud that we didn’t give up,” Kingsbury said. “This has been an awful battle just to get a yes. Council members were even getting frustrated. I think the people who voted for it and supported it can look back on this process and say, ‘We’re so glad she’s here.’ She’s going to be here. She’ll be here longer than we will. It’s exciting.”

“I’m very pleased,” Nash said. “Of course, there’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s looking very promising.”

Both Kingsbury and Nash said it has been difficult to overcome the misinformation circulating on social media about the sculpture, but when they were able to explain the process to people, folks were supportive.

“People thought that somehow it was replacing a windmill project,” Nash said. “In fact, Therese and I offered to help with a project like that in the future. It’s unfortunate that continues to be an issue. The other misconception is that it is somehow a religious icon. Very simply, the sculpture is meant to celebrate the creative process.”

Council member Tara Hizon addressed both of those issues in her comments at the city council meeting, saying she didn’t feel the sculpture was meant to be a religious symbol, but rather the representation of a spirit, or essence, of creativity. She also said people don’t seem to understand how the city can use the funds set aside for the arts.

“We have discussed this to death, and we’re still getting ‘fix a pothole instead of put up a sculpture’ or ‘we need a windmill instead of a sculpture’ and it’s not either/or,” Hizon said. “It’s not possible to use art funds to fix a pothole. It’s not a ‘you can either have a windmill or a sculpture.’ That’s just not how it works, at all.

“There’s something else really bothering me, personally,” she continued. “When I see comments that it doesn’t represent our community or fit in our community or belong in our community, usually those comments are in the same paragraph as ‘we need a windmill’ or ‘Dutch heritage.’ The very idea that Dutch heritage is the only thing worthy of representation in our community is really problematic, at best. That’s not okay. While I do appreciate there is Dutch heritage, that’s not the only thing that’s going on. We have a very diverse community and I think that’s one of the best things about it, honestly.”

The next step in the process is the Geotech work, according to Nash, which will determine what kind of soil is at the installation site and what kind of pin piles, or underground supports, will be needed. The sculpture stands about 37 feet tall, about the size of an average telephone pole. At its widest point, the sculpture is about 10 feet. The sculpture will be welded onto a six-foot square base and then secured to a concrete pad about 14 feet square. All costs for the installation, which Kingsbury estimates will run about $200,000, are being covered by the Drake estate.

“We’re looking at six to eight months,” Kingsbury said. “That’s standing tall and bolted to her foundation. Because it’s so big and it’s a serious installation, there are a lot of components.”

When installation is complete, the city council will formally accept the statue as a gift, which has a current value of approximately $500,000. At that time, the city will make a donation of $35,000 from the creative arts fund to Sculpture Northwest, which will then transfer the money to the nonprofit Whatcom Community Fund, an organization Drake supported.

Kingsbury and Nash feel that is a small price to pay for a work of this magnitude.

“It’s a strong piece,” Nash said. “Sebastian is world renowned, so that is significant. It will put Oak Harbor on the map. I’m hoping personally that people will be open minded about all of this and we really think overall it will be a positive contribution to the city.”

“This is something Seattle would be proud to have,” said Kingsbury. “She will be one of the reasons people stop here. With some of the cool things like the new pocket park at Dock and Pioneer, with the new mural there and other murals, I feel like this town has turned a corner in the last three years. It’s just exciting and I’m really proud council members listened to people that want it and didn’t just hear the angry mob chanting ‘windmill.'”