**UPDATE W/PHOTOS** Last days for aging downtown Tacoma art installation

A downtown Tacoma art installation created 40 years ago by a prominent Pacific Northwest artist could be removed by the end of this month.

The wall-mounted Untitled (Concrete Sculpture) was commissioned by Bob Price Architecture Co. and created by Harold Balazs in 1976 as part of a courtyard fountain at the Bicentennial Pavilion located near South 13th Street and Market Street. Balazs’s work is on display throughout Washington State, including Riverfront Park in Spokane; the Federal Building in downtown Seattle; the Temple Beth El synagogue building in Tacoma; and the former Puget Sound Bank (now KeyBank) in University Place. Six years ago, University of Washington Press published a book about Balazs that coincided with exhibits of his work at museums in Spokane, Pullman, and La Conner.

A City staff report notes the artwork is “unstable and poses a safety hazard.” A consultant reviewed the artwork several years ago and recommended it for deaccession. She found the structural and surface conditions of the artwork to be unstable, and deemed it a public safety hazard. The artwork was not commissioned by the Tacoma Arts Commission, and there is no formal contract on record. The Tacoma Arts Commission voted in April to deaccession the artwork.

“People were climbing it,” City of Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride told the Tacoma Daily Index in November (see “Safety concerns force Tacoma to remove aging art installation downtown,” Tacoma Daily Index, Nov. 6, 2015; and “Tacoma Daily Index Top Stories — November 2015,” Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 1, 2015). “I love Harold’s work. Unfortunately, he was working in a material that isn’t particularly durable after thirty years. But it had a good run! Close to forty years!”

“People have told me that it has suffered quite a high degree of vandalism,” Balazs, 87, told the Tacoma Daily Index in November during a telephone interview from his home in Mead, Wash. “I just had a couple more pieces that have been vandalized and torn down. Nobody wants to repair them.” Balazs recalled the artwork originally included water and light features. “I very seldom gave any titles to the work I did. I know that was the case there. I think somebody was going to try and salvage it and just use it in their home, but I guess that hasn’t come to pass.

“It’s just what happens with age,” he added. “In the old days, they repaired stuff. But the lifetime endurance of most buildings is twenty-five years. Very little gets saved anymore. It’s thrown in the dump.”

In November, four contractors responded to the City of Tacoma’s call for bids to remove and dispose of the art installation (see “4 contractors bid on project to remove aging art installation downtown,” Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 3, 2015; and “Tacoma Daily Index Top Stories — December 2015,” Tacoma Daily Index, Jan. 4, 2016).

“The contract has been awarded,” City of Tacoma Public Art Specialist Rebecca Solverson told the Tacoma Daily Index earlier this month. “I don’t have a final date yet [for de-installation]. It’s possible it’ll be pushed to later in January.”

UPDATE | FRI., JAN. 15 @ 2:35 P.M. – City of Tacoma Public Art Specialist Rebecca Solverson tells the Tacoma Daily Index the art installation will be removed by the contractor Combined Construction beginning at 8 a.m. on Weds., Jan. 20.

UPDATE | WEDS., JAN. 20 @ 10:20 A.M. – Combined Construction and City of Tacoma Public Art Specialist Rebecca Solverson were on-site Wednesday morning to remove the 40-year-old Harold Balazs art installation in downtown Tacoma. The installation consisted of six fairly brittle, re-bar exposed, moss-covered pieces of concrete that were hoisted over the wall at Bicentennial Pavilion and later loaded onto the back of the contractor’s pick-up truck. The Tacoma Daily Index will have a longer feature article later this week. In the interim, here are some photos from Wednesday morning.

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.