Stainless steel horse sculpture will move to more prominent location

by: JOSH KULLA - Appache, shown at its current location, will be moved to a grassy patch just yards away but closer to the heavily trafficked intersection with Park Place. It won’t be moving far, but city of Wilsonville officials hope a few feet will be enough to gain newfound visibility for Appache, the stainless steel sculpture of a grazing horse that now sits outside the front doors of the Wilsonville Visitor and Information Center and the entrance to Town Center Park.

Purchased recently by the city for $5,000 from local metal sculptor Jesse Swickard, Appache has graced the grounds of the visitor center for the past several years. But the installation was always considered temporary.

Now, in the wake of an Aug. 5 request to find the sculpture a new home, city staff has been scouring city-owned properties for a solution.

“The only con to the current site is that it’s located in the middle of the sidewalk,” Parks and Recreation Director Stan Sherer told the council at its Sept. 5 meeting. “It does get a lot of visibility during events.”

In the end, the council elected to move the sculpture a few yards away to a patch of grass closer to the four-way intersection at Park Place and Parkway Court. There, it is expected to draw more attention from passersby and the public at large.

It was one of three potential locations presented to the council by Sherer. The others included Wilsonville City Hall, where at least three different sites were identified on the grounds, and Murase Plaza.

Councilors expressed concern about the latter location because of the potential for driver distraction, as well as damage to the sculpture from vandals.

“The last thing we want are drivers having something more to look at,” said Councilor Richard Goddard.

Sherer agreed.

“I think the city hall or current location or at the intersection near the current location would be the safest,” he said. “I worry about the amount of kids at the Murase site.”

Goddard suggested that city hall has at least “some appeal” because it could create a connection between public art and the city.

“One, we have a pad for public art, and two, it’s at least a clear connection in my mind and others that the city supports public art,” Goddard said.

Mayor Tim Knapp noted that many residents never visit city hall, and suggested the Town Center Park location probably would be the best choice. In the end, this preference won a consensus among councilors.

“The grass patch with sign location is safer, as people won’t bike or skate over it,” Sherer said.

Sherer told the council the city also expects foot traffic to pick up next year after the city’s parks and recreation department takes over the visitor center building from outgoing tenants the Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Councilor Susie Stevens also pointed out that the city’s purchase of Appache could have the effect of reinvigorating interest in the all-but-defunct Wilsonville public art program that once presided over the installation of dozens of sculptures at locations around the city.

“We have little control over public art program, but we certainly can initiate conversation about relocation of this and other pieces,” Stevens said. “I think there are some in the community who have missed that program.”

Knapp downplayed that notion, pointing out that if people truly were interested in public art, they would have stepped forward by now to volunteer their time and effort.

“The short story is it needs energy and it needs commitment from people willing to put their energy into the program,” he said.

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