Where are the sculptures?

  • By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
  • Thursday, January 20, 2011 7:14pm
  • Local NewsEverett

They’re called “Hide and Seek.” A grandfather and little girl peek around a corner of the Imagine Children’s Museum. A boy nearby, accompanied by a dog, leans against the building and covers his eyes.

The set of bronze sculptures has greeted museum visi

tors since 2005, shortly after the facility opened. Created by sculptor Hai Ying Wu, the whimsical figures are a familiar, child-friendly sight in downtown Everett.

Or are they?

Wednesday afternoon, I was out for a downtown walk on the sunniest day in weeks. I was on the Wall Street si

dewalk near the children’s museum when I stopped in my tracks.

There I stood, near a patch of asphalt. It took a moment to remember what was missing — the bronze boy and his dog. A few steps away, at the corner of the museum near Hoyt Avenue, another patch marked where the figure of the man had been.

Was “Hide and Seek” in hiding? My first thought was darker than that.

I remembered a Herald story from Jan. 5 about the theft of a huge propeller from outside The Prop Shop, a marine supply business in Mukilteo. The 3,121-pound bronze, aluminum and nickel propeller, which police recovered, is very valuable because of skyrocketing prices for metals.

Had the hollow bronze statues met a similar fate?

I’m happy to report that the sculpted man, kids and dog are in safekeeping. City of Everett spokeswoman Kate Reardon said they’ll be back after the city finishes street renovations on that the stretch of Hoyt from Everett Avenue to Pacific Avenue. Weather has slowed the project.

The $3.8 million Hoyt Avenue streetscape project includes better pedestrian features, trees, lighting and infrastructure for art, Reardon said.

“The sculptures will be reinstalled once the project is complete sometime this spring,” Reardon said. Sidewalk replacement made removal of the artwork necessary, she added.

“Street crews picked up the beautiful little bronzes from the children’s museum, wrapped them up and moved them on pallets to our storage facility on Cedar Street,” said Carol Thomas, the city’s cultural arts manager.

“Suddenly you miss it,” Taylor Felt, the museum’s exhibits manager, said of the bronzes. I had told him how, without actually knowing it, I had sensed something important was missing as I walked past. I’m no art critic, but those pieces have a wonderful, lively quality of motion in spite of their static nature.

“It shows how much public art can bring into a space,” Felt said.

“Hide and Seek” is neither owned by nor on loan to the city, as are many other downtown art pieces.

The bronze sculptures belong to the Imagine Children’s Museum, and were commissioned by an anonymous donor. Linda Dixon, the museum’s director of administration, said they were designed in cooperation with the artist to go with the building.

“They were removed for their safety. No one wanted them damaged,” said Dixon, explaining that the pieces are normally anchored in the concrete by metal rods.

Dixon did not know what the donor paid for “Hide and Seek” or its current value. I know, especially when economic times are tough, that some people see little value in art on the street.

For me, the absence of those cheerful figures made me realize how much I take for granted. Art has value that’s hard to calculate. I didn’t realize how much it mattered until it wasn’t there.

I feel lucky to live in a place with a walkable, attractive downtown, rich with art.

“They’re coming back,” Thomas said. “I’m sure people love them.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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