Project aims to give CalPortland silos a new artsy life, some Kenmore residents object

A cluster of large silos along State Route 522 in Kenmore could get a face-lift if a local community group is successful in its efforts to raise funds but some are not happy about the idea.

A cluster of large silos along State Route 522 in Kenmore could get a face-lift if a local community group is successful in its efforts to raise funds but some are not happy about the idea.

The Highway 522 Beautification Project was launched last year following citizen input during the city’s “For the Love of Kenmore” project where they solicited resident input on ways to spruce up the city.

The project is entirely independent of local or state governments, said project board member Andrea Hansen.

Since the silos are on private property owned by the cement plant CalPortland, the project is ineligible to receive government funding, which means the nearly $22,000 price tag will have to be footed by individuals and businesses.

The project is important to Hansen, who sits on the board along with local community leaders and members of the Arts of Kenmore, a local non-profit which will handle the funds and give them tax-free standing.

“[Kenmore] was seen as a pass-through town, you know, people were driving through here to get to somewhere else, but there is a very vibrant community here now,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that I think are going to happen here in the next five years.”

Some residents say that the project gives legitimacy to a health hazard that was grandfathered into the city when it incorporated in 1998.

“Are we celebrating air pollution,” wrote Kenmore resident Janet Hays in a letter to the Bothell Reporter. “It will certainly look like it. I am all for public art. I find this particular project, inappropriate and offensive.”

Many of the residents believe the project undermines the efforts to get rid of the industrial site.

“This may sound like a nice idea to some folks in the area; however, for all the Kenmore residents who live on the north side of Highway 522 who endure the daily deluge of toxic waste belching from those silos – we may feel differently,” said Kenmore Resident Kate Donaldson in a letter to the Reporter. “… The notion that painting the silos anything other than grey is disturbing. It would be a slap in the face of Kenmore residents if you were to paint some sort of colorful, rosy scene on those silos storing the poison soon to be released into our beautiful community. Kenmore would be the laughing stock of Washington State…”

The city’s efforts to draw business downtown, a booming housing market and increasing access to the waterfront from the Burke-Gilman Trail all mean more people will be stopping in Kenmore, and Hansen said decorating the silos would help make a positive impression.

The basic plan for the silos is to send out a call for artist submissions beginning in September. Artists will send in concept ideas, and the board will select one by the end of February.

The winning piece of art will be blown up onto wrap-around banners and placed on the silos.

Hansen said CalPortland will cover the cost of installation and maintain and light the silos for at least five years.

A kick-off bar-be-que will be held Sept. 24 at CalPortland with proceeds going towards the project. Around $600 have been raised from a GoFundMe page, and volunteers will begin soliciting donations from businesses next month, Hansen said.

Physical donations will be counted on the GoFundMe page, reflected by reductions in the total goal.

The funds will go to cover the costs of paying the artists and having the art printed.

Additionally the art will be unique to Kenmore, Hansen said.

“It can’t be art that has been created for any other purpose or used anywhere else,” she said. “It could be a lot of things, but we don’t really know what’s going to happen until we see the contestants and what entries they submit.”