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Designer refines Sellwood Bridge 'public art' project

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Mikyoung Kims artistic conception of the pylons that will someday welcome eastbound Sellwood Bridge users to Sellwood.“We are meeting one milestone, contractually,” Mikyoung Kim said, at a May 1 meeting held at Sellwood’s SMILE Station. She was talking about her Sellwood Bridge Public Art Project.

“That milestone is the completion of the ‘Schematic Design’,” Kim told THE BEE, as people filtered into the building. “We are sharing the process of where we are right now. We will be moving into a ‘Detail Design’ throughout the next year.”

The artist remarked that they’re at the “20% mark” of the total process.

“We look at the project in its entirety, from design through final construction. I think the ‘bigger ideas’ are set. We just had a meeting with all the engineers on the project, and we’re trying to figure out the details of coordinating the sculpture with the landscape.”

Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) Public Art Manager Peggy Kendellen began the formal presentation on May 1st, telling those assembled that Kim and her Senior Associate, William Madden, had come in for the day from the Boston headquarters of Mikyoung Kim Design.

“We’re looking at ‘installation’ in 2016,” Kendellen said. “This is a ‘Percent for Art’ project. Although this is a Multnomah County project, the City of Portland is giving a substantial amount of money, which includes the ‘2% for Art’ funding.”

Introduced to the group, Kim said that what she and her colleagues are proposing, for this site, “is what we call an ‘integrated piece of art’. It’s a fancy way of saying that we are ‘playing nice with the other kids’. We’re not just working on a sculpture in Boston, and at the last minute, trucking it over [to Portland]!

“We're now meeting with the Sellwood Bridge design team and engineers, and seeing how we can integrate some of our sculpture into the project – making sure that our sculpture works with the bio-swale, for example.”

The “Schematic Design” of the project Kim calls “Stratum Project” shows a series of ecologically-inspired geologic sculptural totems. The 14-foot-high pylons, made of undulating materials, will suggest a cross-section of the area – from river bed, to water, to land, and up to sky.

She reminded the group that the inspiration behind their proposal was “the idea of motion; and the idea that people will be looking at it different speeds – from a vehicle, a bicycle, or while walking.”

The multi-part installation will line both sides of the block just east of the bridge, up to S.E. 6th Avenue and Tacoma Street.