Preparations under way for Theater District art installation

Work is under way this week to install art on a bare wall located between two historic buildings in Tacoma’s Theater District.

The artwork is being created by Seattle-based artist Jonathan Clarren and consists of a trio of three-dimensional steel laser-cut half-spheres that range in diameter between three feet and nearly seven feet, and feature an intricate design pattern. The pieces will be bolted to a blank facade situated between the Kress Building, located at 934-936 Broadway, and the C. N. Gardener Building, located at 928-930 Broadway. The Kress Building was designed by architect E. J. T. Hoffman, built in 1925, and added to Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places in 2006 (see “Council adds buildings to register of historic places,” Tacoma Daily Index, March 30, 2006; “Resolution would add buildings to register of historic places,” Tacoma Daily Index, March 27, 2006; and “Kress Building gets historic nod from City,” Tacoma Daily Index, Feb. 23, 2006). The C. N. Gardener Building was designed by architect George W. Bullard, built in 1907, and added to Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Current building tenants include the United States Geological Survey Washington Water Science Center, Kompan, and Swenson Say Faget.

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the proposal during a public meeting in May (see “Art installation proposed for downtown Tacoma Theater District facade,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 11, 2015; and “Art installation approved for downtown Tacoma Theater District facade,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 29, 2015). City staff noted the historic facades of the Kress Building and the Gardener 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.

“I think it’s a really nice complement to the building and will create a little bit of energy,” Eric Cederstrand told the Landmarks Preservation Commission earlier this year. Cederstrand is a member of the building ownership group that submitted the proposal. “I think it will be a nice addition to the community. Hopefully, it just takes the ugliness of that wall out and just highlights the two historic buildings.

“The idea here is that as the sun is going around, it will cast shadows on the wall [that are] always moving and changing,” added Cederstrand. “What we are going to do is add some soft uplights to [an existing awning] that will create some shadowing at night and really kind of create something in that mid-block. If you go down there at night, you’ll see what I am talking about. It’s just kind of dark through there. So it just kind of adds a little pizzazz to it. It’s in the Theater District—a place where we should have some more artwork.”

The project is estimated to cost approximately $20,000 to $25,000.

In May, Cederstrand told the Tacoma Daily Index the artwork could be installed by the end of this year. “We are working with the artist now and hopefully will have a better timeline in the next few weeks,” he said. “It could be as soon as October, but it has to be constructed and engineered before it goes up.”

On Tuesday, contractors blocked off a small section of Broadway to make room for a mechanical lift that allowed a worker to paint the facade in preparation for the artwork. A contractor on-site told the Tacoma Daily Index the artwork could be installed by the end of October, weather permitting.

Work is under way this week to install art on a bare wall located between two historic buildings in Tacoma's Theater District. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Work is under way this week to install art on a bare wall located between two historic buildings in Tacoma’s Theater District. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

UPDATE | FRI., OCT. 2 @ 8 A.M. – Jonathan Clarren, the Seattle-based artist who is designing the artwork for the Theater District building facade, reached out to the Tacoma Daily Index on Thursday via e-mail from California. According to Clarren, the original artwork he proposed and designed is now being fabricated and will be installed with the help of the building owners, engineers, Lee Built Construction, and a Seattle crew. Clarren wrote:

“What was taking place this Tuesday was painting the wall and drilling the mounting holes. Since the installation requires a large lift that also requires a street permit, we are having to group up phases of the installation. I built three mounting rings for the spheres: a 3-foot, 5-foot, and 8-foot ring, for each half sphere to mount to. There are a bunch of parts we are still fabricating and I am required to meet a fair amount of code or directives from the engineer, so I am scrambling to get everything done to the standards required. I was excited to see things actually happening at the site this week. It was only this past March that I submitted a drawing to the owners of a proposal of this project after I was asked to make something. To see it all happening in a relative short period of time feels great compared to some other projects that I have had that take years to move along.”

Clarren also provided the following photo:

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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.