Snoqualmie has plans for art at Centennial Fields

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SNOQUALMIE - If this takes off, Valley kids in trouble for leaving their footballs or baseballs lying in the sidewalk may get themselves off the hook by telling their parents "it's art."

That's what the city of Snoqualmie is doing.

When the Snoqualmie Arts Commission set out to find public art for Centennial Fields last year, they were looking for something sports related with a highly interactive quality. The commission scouted a California artist with exactly the concept they were looking for - giant sports balls melded into the sidewalk.

A solicitation of local and regional artists led the commission to Troy Corliss, a Woodland, Calif., artist with a resume teeming with interactive public art. He specializes in huge, spherical shapes such as eggs, turtle shells, footballs, soccer balls, baseballs, volleyballs and tennis balls with unusual distortions.

Dan Saimo, president of the Arts Commission, said photos of Corliss' work for the Denver Regional Transit and a public park facility in Sacramento inspired them.

The sculpture, aptly titled "Valley Balls," consists of several "squashed" and oversized colorful terrazzo balls meant to be a congregating feature that visitors may sit or play on.

"The subject matter was just perfect," Saimo said. "The whole goal of the commission was to create something that would be highly interactive, something kids would be attracted to. Troy's work was an obvious fit."

Centennial Fields, just east of Snoqualmie Elementary School, was finished in 2002 and has three, full-size baseball diamonds, a football field and a small soccer field.

"It was primarily the highly interactive quality of the sculpture and that kids can climb on them. It provides a more interactive space for kids and the fact that it was a sports theme tied in well," said Saimo.

The sculptures, akin to giant mutant ostrich eggs, are made of terrazzo concrete, a very solid concrete composite mixture covered with a shiny coating of polyurethane that makes it impervious to the elements and most graffiti. "Terrazzo" means "flecked earth" and represents the different pigments seen in the stone finish.

About $5,000 is the only obstacle arts commissioners will have to overcome to place a baseball, football and soccer ball inside the park. The Snoqualmie City Council immediately took to Corliss' sculpture.

"I love the concept," said Councilman Matt Larson, chair of the finance and administration committee. "I think it's absolutely perfect for this park. I think the public would receive it well, but it's a pretty big chunk of money."

The commission is still negotiating with Corliss, who last offered two balls for $14,000. But three balls would be ideal and the arts commission is seeking funding for it presently. With three balls the project could cost as much as $25,000, which would include design, fabrics, shipping, installation and extended maintenance for the first 3 to 5 years.

When the 1 Percent for Public Arts law went into effect in 2002, 1 percent of the funding for every city project was set aside for public art. Since then the fund has only been used for stained glass windows and an artist's rendering of the crossed-axes emblem - both for the new fire station - leaving about $14,000 for the Arts Commission to work with. That money has been designated for this particular project.

But so far the commission has had a hard time finding grants or private funding to help with the project.

"We're trying to get additional funding," Saimo said. "We have enough for two balls but we want to do three. We're also looking at the possibility of doing more for other parks if we can raise some additional funding, but that's down the road."

Maria Henriksen, chair of public works for the City Council, pointed out that three sculptures would be more symmetrical.

"I think the concept is good if you can come back with the third ball in there. Three is a more artistic number," Henriksen said. "I'd be interested to see what he'd take for three."

Corliss will be brought up to Snoqualmie in the next few months to get a feel for the area.

"He'll have a lot of say in where and how the pieces are installed - that's his whole thing, bringing vision to the space," said Saimo.

Once the Arts Commission raises enough money, it will take a proposal to the City Council. Saimo said he hopes to have enough money by January or February. The council's goal is to get the Valley Balls installed by summer of 2005. But for now the only thing set in stone is the sculptures themselves. The Arts Commission is still working out much of the logistics.

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