City Council vote would formally support Warhol art atop Tacoma Dome

Tacoma City Council could vote next week on a resolution expressing support for a proposal to cover the roof of the Tacoma Dome in art work designed by the iconic pop artist Andy Warhol.

The plan dates back to 1982, when Warhol responded to a call for artists to submit proposals for public art at the Tacoma Dome, which was under construction at the time. Warhol’s plan called for painting a bright flower over the exterior of the Tacoma Dome’s roof. Although Warhol’s work was not selected, members of Tacoma’s arts community have advocated for the project ever since (see “Discussion continues on Warhol Tacoma Dome roof plan,” Tacoma Daily Index, April 17, 2014). While the City owns the work Warhol submitted more than 30 years ago, it does not own the rights to reproduce the flower without permission from the Warhol Foundation. According to City staff, however, preliminary discussions between the City and the Warhol Foundation show mutual support for the proposal.

Last spring, City officials tested the idea by digitally printing an image onto an adhesive film and gauging the adhesive by applying it to a portion of the roof for a six-month period — and under a variety of weather conditions — in order to determine its impact on the roof’s exterior surface, as well as how well the image would hold up under the elements (see “A rooftop test for Tacoma Dome Warhol flower,” Tacoma Daily Index, April 22, 2014). In December, City staff released the results of the rooftop test (see “City Council committee to revisit plan for Warhol art atop Tacoma Dome,” Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 1, 2014).

For supporters, the results were not promising.

“Testing of the material proposed for the installation has demonstrated that there could be significant issues with appearance, color fading, cleaning and ultimately removal of the material,” wrote City of Tacoma Public Assembly Facilities Director Kim Bedier in a Dec. 9 memo. “The appearance of the decal had varying degrees of acceptability in relation to color and weathering. The darker colors of the test pattern were noticeably dirty and not as bold as they were at installation. The lighter colors hid the dirt better, but presented a slightly faded appearance. All the seams were very dirty. This is not surprising due to the exposure to the elements in this location, but presents a condition that could negatively impact appearance and presentation, regardless of the frequency of cleanings.”

The report also noted the initial cost to design and install the public art could total nearly $2.2 million, and the art work would need to be cleaned at least twice annually at the estimated cost of $150,000 per cleaning.

Still, the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation offered to establish an account to accept donations for the project. According to City staff, it is estimated to cost $5.1 million over a three-year period to pay for materials, labor, maintenance, bi-annual cleaning, removal, a fundraising consultant, marketing and related expenses, and project management related to the project.

Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution to support the plan if it is funded entirely through a private fundraising campaign that has no fiscal impact on the City’s budget. The resolution also directs Tacoma City Manager T. C. Broadnax to work with the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation on the fundraising campaign. Councilmembers are expected to vote on the resolution during a public meeting at 5 p.m. on Tues., Feb. 10, at Tacoma City Hall, located at 747 Market St., First Floor, in downtown Tacoma. Copies of the resolution and staff memorandum are available online here and here, respectively.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the proposed Andy Warhol mural atop the Tacoma Dome, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and author of A Reporter At Large: A decade of Tacoma interviews, feature articles, and photographs and Wah Mee. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.