WENATCHEE — As far as public art goes, Carolyn Law’s doesn’t stink.
That’s saying a lot, considering some of her most recent pieces now sit on top of the filtration system for the smelliest air generated at Wenatchee’s wastewater treatment plant.
The Seattle artist spent much of the day Monday putting up 10 aluminum and plexiglas art pieces along Worthen Street, where a viewing platform has already been built but isn’t yet open to the public.. The art pieces which can be seen from the sidewalk along Worthen, have dozens of small reflective disks to catch the sunlight and move in the wind.
Glass walls were also put up along the length of the viewing platform. Three of the glass walls have designs etched into them and will eventually have water flowing over them for visual effect.
The artwork and other visual improvements are an integral part of a $9.5 million upgrade to eliminate odors, add public interest and showcase the technology of the plant that sits in the middle of the city’s developing waterfront district. ADD: Money for the art comes from the city’s 1% for Art Fund, which receives 1 percent of what the city spends to build non-grant-funded capital projects.
Law will be paid $12,000 to $15,000 for her design work and expenses, and the art pieces and lighting were expected to cost less than $75,000 to build.
“It takes up 600 feet right in the middle of the waterfront,” said Dan Frazier, Wenatchee’s director of public works operations. “We decided that instead of trying to hide it, let’s draw attention to it.”
When the art element is completed over the next couple of weeks, it will feature moving lights throughout the plant so it won’t ever be the same.
One building on the grounds will have lights that change from blue to a cold white “to create a sense of moving water,” said Gwen Demombynes, the lightning consultant for the project.
“The activity of light is intended to show what’s happening underground and outside of view,” she said. “It’s intended to make beautiful something that is considered dirty and ugly.”
Law added, “In the end, it is beautiful again when the water goes back into the river clean again.”
Demombynes said she’s designed a subtle light display with various colors within the white spectrum “to give interest without making it look like Las Vegas.”
“We want it to be subtle enough but beautiful enough that people will want to look at it,” she said.
The Wenatchee plant is the first sewer project for Law, who has a long list of public art projects in Washington and around the country.
She has been working as a professional studio artist and public artist for more than 30 years. Her public art projects range widely from team projects that encompass entire communities to individual pieces and temporary work. Her work is on display at public plazas, housing projects, overpasses, parks, bridges, and transit stations. She was commissioned to do the basalt column artwork at the three entrances to Ephrata.
This is her first project in Wenatchee.
She said she was intrigued by the sewer project because “it’s so much a part of the city. It’s really an incredible opportunity for people to see how it works and how it makes our lives possible.”
As she installed the artwork on Monday afternoon, several people stopped by to check it out. The air was crisp and smelled slightly organic, but no sewer smell was present.
Frazier said all the smelly air from the plant is now captured in pipes and forced underground to be filtered through a swimming-pool sized area filled with sand, rocks and tiny organisms that eat the smelly stuff out of the air.
“As we develop the waterfront, we want to encourage pedestrian traffic along here,” he said. “This is a great way to do it. I know we’ve joked about this being a spa now, but it really doesn’t look like a sewer treatment plant anymore.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152