Preparations continue for downtown Tacoma Theater District art installation

Work continues on a major art installation proposed for downtown Tacoma’s Theater District.

The artwork is being created by Seattle-based sculptor and painter Jonathan Clarren. It consists of a trio of three-dimensional metal, laser-cut half-spheres that range in diameter between three feet, five feet, and eight feet, and feature an intricate design pattern. The pieces will be bolted to a blank facade situated between the historic Kress Building, located at 934-936 Broadway, and the historic C. N. Gardner Building, located at 928-930 Broadway. Once installed, the art is expected to “cast unique shadow patterns on the wall enhancing the display and always changing,” according to a proposal prepared by the property owners, Eric Cederstrand and his uncle, Ken Cederstrand. The project is estimated to cost approximately $20,000 to $25,000.

“The blank wall where Jonathan’s installation will be placed has always bothered our family,” Eric Cederstrand told the Tacoma Daily Index in October. “It is dull during the day and dark at night. We are extremely pleased with the artist’s three-dimensional creation. It will definitely add life and a focal point to the Theater District.”

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the proposal during a public meeting last spring. City staff noted the historic facades of the Kress Building and the Gardner Building would be retained and preserved, the installation would be sited on the non-historic facade between the two buildings, and no historic material would be removed or destroyed.

In September, contractors blocked off a small section of Broadway to make room for a mechanical lift that allowed workers to paint the building facade and drill holes for three mounting rings that will support the spheres.

In October, the Tacoma Daily Index met Clarren, 35, at his Seattle home and studio to discuss the art installation (see “Art installation aims to illuminate Tacoma’s Theater District,” Tacoma Daily Index, Oct. 16, 2015). At that time, Clarren hoped to complete the installation by the end of last year, but the artwork wasn’t finished.

This week, the Tacoma Daily Index followed up with Clarren for an update on the project.

“All is moving along,” said Clarren. “All the fabrication is completed [and] we are still doing some stress testing on the 8 [foot piece]. Besides that, we are just trying to line up the installation time . . . With the weather and the inspections that are required, coupled with a street use permit, we want to have enough time to get it all done. There are quite a few entities to organize and line up for the installation.

“I have been slowed a tad by the light situation,” he added. “After talking to many people, I found a company here in Seattle that can build lights to my specifications and also UL list them — not an easy feat, which is awesome. We are working on having ‘dimmability,’ as well as color, with programmable sequences.”

Clarren shared several recent photos with the Tacoma Daily Index:

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of Jonathan Clarren’s downtown Tacoma Theater District art installation, click on the following links:

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.