Signs of progress in downtown Bothell are most often of the industrial sort, as the city’s downtown revitalization plan proceeds with numerous road and building projects. But there is beauty to be found between the traffic cones and cranes, as the city has woven public art into its vision for the future.
First came three bronze sculptures that now populate the fountain area and back staircase at City Hall, which is located in the heart of downtown Bothell.
Commissioned by the city and created by Northwest artist Georgia Gerber, “Standing Otter,” “Mother Beaver with Pup,” “Sitting Beaver” and “City Kitty” have become fixtures since they were placed in December 2017, the last a rendering of an unofficial city mascot that lived in an old house that was torn down to build the new City Hall.
Last year, the Bothell City Council made a more formal commitment to the arts by establishing an Arts Commission, joining 23 other cities in King County that recruit citizen volunteers to advise on arts programs. Now the commission has brought the art inside City Hall, where it is curating a rotating gallery of 2D, 3D and media art on the first floor.
The first exhibit was installed in February and features the work of Dennis Wunsch.
A Bothell resident, Wunsch is an award-winning illustrator and designer who started his career drawing Scooby-Doo and Super Friends for Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. He’s now a creative director, and has recently begun creating illustrations for children’s books.
“When I create art, my goal is to intrigue and inspire my audience as well as enrich their appreciation of the world,” he wrote in an artist statement posted on the south wall of City Hall, by the council chambers. “I want my artwork to lure its viewers back to enjoy it again — with a new perspective, thought or feeling.”
The city will host a reception on April 10 where residents will have a chance to view the display and meet the artist.
Tourism manager DeNae McGee said that it’s “great to kick [the program] off with a local artist.”
The next work will be installed later in April. The city plans to feature four artists in 2018: abstract artist Jeff Olson from May 1-July 20, watercolorist Megan Eckman from Aug. 1-Oct. 19 and photographer Eric Demattos from Nov. 1-Jan. 25.
The origins of the gallery go back to the construction of the new City Hall, which opened in 2015. It was during that time that the council formed an ad hoc art committee, commissioned the bronze sculptures and installed a hanging system in the gallery space. The Arts Commission later purchased four screens to display media art and a case for 3D pieces.
“We were trying to figure out what our assets are, and one of the most obvious was the great space here in City Hall,” McGee said.
The commission consists of seven members who serve three-year staggered terms. They are tasked with finding locations for art around the city, issuing calls for artists, reviewing proposals and making recommendations to the City Council.
The city used CaFÉ (CallForEntry.org) to do its first artist call, and received hundreds of submissions.
To help assure that local artists continue to be represented in future works, one Arts Commission member is working to create a mailing list of area artists and arts organizations.
The Arts Commission also advises the council about the allocation of “Percent for Public Art” funding, which comes from money set aside from city-owned capital improvement projects.
McGee said that the commissioners are energetic and “excited to be blazing the trail.”
The reception for Dennis Wunsch will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on April 10. Learn more about his at denniswunsch.com. Wunsch’s work is for sale; call 425-806-6143 for pricing.