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Sellwood gets new gateway, bridge art

COURTESY MIKE PULLEN, MULTNOMAH COUNTY - A full-size sculpture to be used in 'Stratum' is getting  shaped at Jim Schmidt's Art & Design Works studio in Cornelius. The Sellwood Bridge gateway project includes 23 of the 14-foot sculptures.Tearing down the old Sellwood Bridge to make way for the new has gotten creative juices flowing.

By month’s end, workers will begin installing 23 multicolored sculptures on the east approach to the Sellwood Bridge, providing a new gateway to Southeast Portland.

In addition, two Sellwood residents came together to repurpose remnants of the old bridge, creating crafts that are being sold to benefit Sellwood Middle School.

Final work on the new bridge is near completion, with all construction expected to end Nov. 16.

CONTRIBUTED - Artistic rendering of coming Sellwood Bridge sculpturesGateway to Sellwood

In 2012, the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) selected award-winning Boston landscape architect Mikyoung Kim to create public art for the new Sellwood Bridge.

Four years later, the project — called “Stratum”— is near completion. The first batch of 14-foot-high sculptures will be erected the last week of August on the south side of Southeast Tacoma Street. Art & Design Works of Cornelius continues to work on the remaining sculptures for the north side of Tacoma, with estimated completion set for later in the fall.

“Stratum” is a series of ecologically inspired geological totems, where layers of recycled and other materials will come together to create a surface representing earth, water and sky as a gateway to the Sellwood community.

“The concept is driven by the power and beauty of the geologic and natural phenomena of the Willamette River Valley,” says Peggy Kendellen of the RACC.

The city of Portland funded and will own the sculptures, which will be maintained by RACC, which manages public arts programs for the city and Multnomah County.

Each sculpture form “rotates” at a 90-degree angle, giving passersby a sense of progression and motion.

That also will help address a safety concern raised by a Community Advisory Committee early on in planning: that a wider Sellwood Bridge could lead to higher traffic speeds from cars entering the neighborhood.

“The installations will serve as a reminder to drivers that they’re exiting the bridge and entering the neighborhood,” says Mike Pullen, a Multnomah County spokesman.

Furthermore, he says, the art will present a welcoming landmark — similar to Troutdale’s “Gateway to the Gorge” or large-scale art at the entrances to the Rose Quarter.

“We are excited to see our vision come to life this fall,” Kim says. “These are exactly the kind of projects that intrigue us — ones that integrate art with architecture, landscape and infrastructure in the public realm.”

Planners will schedule a dedication event once the final installation date for the art project is known.

Old bridge pieces benefit Sellwood Middle School

Thanks to a few good souls in Sellwood, remnants of the old bridge are being turned into memorabilia to benefit the local middle school.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: LYNDSEY HEWITT - Cindy Wallace (left), co-owner of Blue Kangaroo Coffee Roasters, and Rachel Ginocchio, of Rumpus Events, stand with some of the memorabilia made from old Sellwood Bridge material. The two spearheaded a fundraiser to benefit Sellwood Middle School. Cindy Wallace, a co-owner of Blue Kangaroo Coffee Roasters, 7901 S.E. 13th Ave., and Rachel Ginocchio, of Rumpus Events, an event-planning company in Sellwood, have come together in recent months to host and organize events such as arts and craft activities and raffles — all incorporating old bridge material.

Fireplace pokers, bottle openers and coat hooks made from bridge rebar are for sale at the coffee shop, along with the “classic” product, a chunk of the old bridge concrete that comes in a keepsake box.

Middle school students helped to break down the bridge chunks to fit the boxes and tagged each item with a seal of authentication.

The project started nearly two years ago, when Multnomah County put the old bridge up for sale. Ginocchio jumped on the opportunity and contacted contractor Slayden-Sundt — which agreed to help provide rebar and chunks of cement for art projects to benefit the school.

“The Sellwood Middle School PTA and foundation have been on board since the beginning and have been supportive of all activities,” Ginocchio says. Money from sales of the old bridge material will go toward the PTA.

“The PTA buys teaching supplies, art supplies, funds field trips ... anything that supports the teachers and the curriculum,” she says.

In June, an auction was held at the shop where a chunk of the old bridge’s railing was a hot commodity.

“Everybody wanted that chunk for their house, so what Rachel came up with was to have people bid on it,” says Wallace, who has worked with Ginocchio on previous fundraisers. The railing is going to be displayed permanently at the SMILE Station, along with a plaque with the top 10 bidders’ names.

So far, more than $2,000 has been raised for the school through the various projects.

“It’s about bringing the community and business together to support the school,” Wallace says.

There are several events scheduled, including an art display and contest this month, and an unveiling of the railing plaque in September.

To keep up with events associated with the project, visit rumpusevents.com/sellwood-bridge.