Langley Arts Fund paves the way to enjoyment for all

— Created March 16, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

The Langley Arts Fund and the city of Langley will dedicate a new walkway at 1:30 p.m. today in Whale Bell Park, making it easy for people with limited mobility to not only view a gray whale statue installed during the pandemic, but to also see the great beasts themselves as they travel through Saratoga Passage.

“The walkway project was a follow-up from placing Georgia Gerber’s “Hope: The Wishing Whale” in Whale Bell Park,” explained Bruce Hanson, a member of the Langley Arts Fund. “One of the improvements we could see with the whole of Seawall Park is improving the accessibility, so people can enjoy not only the art, but the whole experience.”

If it seems a bit out of an art organization’s comfort zone to build a walkway, Hanson said the group knew this project was an important one, and members concluded Langley Arts Fund was the only organization with the knowledge and motivation to do it.

“From the history of installing “Hope: The Wishing Whale,” we had familiarity with the permitting and the process it would take to make the walkway happen,” he said. ” We all feel very strongly that art and nature [should] be accessible for people who have mobility impairments or other barriers to participation. I myself have a mobility impairment due to a spinal cord injury. I am a part-time wheelchair user, so I had a personal interest in seeing this happen.”

“The mission of the Langley Arts Fund is to identify projects, artists, partnerships and funding to nurture and support our community’s creative endeavors,” Diane Divelbess, the vice-chair of the Arts Fund, said in a press release about the walkway. “This can only be successful when everyone can access the experiences that make Langley unique.”

Langley Arts Fund secured a grant from the Washington State Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment, which paid for the engineering and construction of the walkway, according to the press release. The arts fund also had the support of architect Ross Chapin and Country Roads LLC founder, Clayton Reaves, who oversaw the installation of the walkway.

“The grant was for $7,200,” said Hanson. “Amazingly, the total cost of the project came to $7,185.”

Thursday’s dedication ceremony will be an informal one that will officially “open” the new walkway and give members of LAF and the public an opportunity to stroll the new path. The ceremony will also honor Peter Morton, a founding member of the Langley Arts Fund and a former Langley city council member.

“While we were installing Hope it became clear that the waterfront was not accessible for some members of our community,” Frank Rose, LAF chair, stated in the release. “I’m very proud of what the whole team did to make this project happen. Peter was an integral part of our effort and we will miss him.” 

“Peter’s role in the project was that of project manager,” Hanson said. “In that role he was very persistent in seeing that this project continued to move forward. When we hit snags or issues along the way, he was able to keep us on track and focused on the final goal.  Peter did this work as a private citizen and not as a council member. His experience on the council was helpful, because he knew who to ask when we had questions.”

Langley has been recognized as a Great American Art Town, attracting and inspiring artists, visitors and residents. Langley Arts Fund looks for projects and people to help nurture that creative spirit. The new walkway is but one of the recent projects the organization has undertaken.

“The most rewarding projects we’ve done have been around sculpture in downtown Langley,” said Hanson. “This includes the placement of “Hope: The Wishing Whale” and our loaned sculpture program. At present there are five sculptures in downtown Langley that we have placed either temporarily or permanently over the past two years.

“Going forward, right now we’re working on our first telecom utility box wrap to make these rather dull, drab boxes around town much brighter and happier,” he continued. “It’s taking longer than we expected due to supply chain issues getting the materials and producing the wraps. We hope to have our first wrap installed soon.”

The organization is also launching a giving program called the Big-Arted Bunch, which will enable donors to contribute regularly to the Langley Arts Fund, which operates under the umbrella of the Whidbey Island Arts Council. The giving program is open to anyone and those interested can sign up on LAF’s website,

Hanson said he believes the new walkway will be a great way to connect people of all abilities throughout the community.

“For me, the most rewarding part of this project was actually getting in my wheelchair and wheeling out to the viewpoint to see the water,” he said. “I’ve also noticed there’s always people out there now, as the walkway is much more inviting and welcoming. People are going out there to sit on the bench and look at the water. The other day I saw a young family with a stroller and a couple small children playing out there. I doubt they would’ve gone out there if the walkway hadn’t been there.”