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Art crystallizes: Good selection process leads to a solid proposal

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Posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 11:39 pm | Updated: 4:15 pm, Fri Jan 25, 2013.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The committee that selected the artistic structure for the new island of public space on the north side of the Chena River downtown deserves thanks from the community, both for the process it employed and the product upon which it has settled.

The committee on Friday selected an attractive, interesting proposal from a pair of Canadian artists. The artists, Michael Vandermeer and Cheryl Hamilton, plan to build a cluster of metallic rods, six-sided in cross-section, of varying heights up to 36 feet. The rods will be arranged to create a crystalline form. The shorter rods will be topped with lights of different, changing colors that will shine on the taller rods.

The structure doesn’t represent one particular thing. People can adopt different interpretations of the form.

Some might see the crystals of quartz that bore the gold upon which Fairbanks was formed.

Others might see shards of ice — the kind that shoot through super-cooled water in a bucket when disturbed by a cup.

For many, the lights on the crystalline form no doubt will evoke thoughts of the northern lights.

Others might see none of the above but just appreciate the interesting sculpture.

Not everyone will be happy with the design, of course. That’s the nature of art.

Everyone should be satisfied with the process that brought us this design, though. The committee did an excellent job gathering ideas from the community and then requesting proposals from artists. It began with a public “Ideas Wanted” meeting in late April at the site of the proposed sculpture, then progressed through a request for proposals to last week’s selection.

“With your ideas and support, we are committed to public art that honors the past, represents the present and symbolizes the future,” member Sue Sprinkle wrote on this page in April on behalf of the committee. “We expect an enduring landmark that will enhance and continue the tradition of this vital neighborhood. We think that with exciting public art and a restored riverside access this place will once again attract all of us to the Chena River downtown. We think this green space is the key to a seamless riverscape that will help make Fairbanks a better place to live.”

Based on what we’ve seen to date, they’ve made a great start.

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