Top Stories 2014: #4 — Sun King Reigns

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Tacoma Daily Index is looking back at the 10 most popular and most read articles among visitors to our Web site. Enjoy!

It took nearly 40 years, but artist Tom Morandi and his Sun King sculpture finally had their day in the sun and respect from Tacoma.

This summer, Morandi, City of Tacoma officials, and a sizeable group of loyal Sun King supporters gathered in a public park to celebrate the abstract sculpture’s return to public display after it was placed in storage for nearly a decade (see “Sun King Reigns: Tacoma, Morandi mark sculpture’s return,” Tacoma Daily Index, June 26, 2014). The event marked the end of a long journey for a piece of public art that was installed during the late-1970s near the corner of Broadway and South 13th Street, just steps from the Sheraton Hotel. Nearly a decade ago, however, the three-ton, bronze-and-steel Sun King was placed in storage to make way for a new piece of public art as the former Sheraton Hotel was stylishly renovated and renamed Hotel Murano (see “Sun King In Storage: It’s no castle, but a Tacoma repair shop is home for now,” Tacoma Daily Index, Feb. 11, 2014).

One year ago this month, the City began to accept bids on a $25,000 project that would take Sun King out of storage and place it in a public park near South 15th Street and Dock Street (see “A new home for Tacoma’s Sun King?” Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 3, 2013). A contract was awarded to Puyallup, Wash.-based D & D Construction, and the piece was moved to the public park near Thea Foss Waterway in May (see “Sun King Rising: Moving Tacoma’s massive Sun King involved more than heavy lifting,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 23, 2014; and “Moving day for Tacoma’s massive Sun King sculpture,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 21, 2014; “Sun King sculpture to be placed in Tacoma park this month,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 13, 2014; “Park preparations begin for Tacoma’s Sun King installation,” Tacoma Daily Index, April 11, 2014; and “Record Tacoma rainfall stalls Sun King’s return,” Tacoma Daily Index, April 1, 2014).

Morandi and his wife, Suzanne Dechnik, were in Tacoma in June to see the sculpture in its new location, meet with old friends, and take a walking tour of downtown Tacoma (see “Sun King Reigns: Tacoma, Morandi mark sculpture’s return,” Tacoma Daily Index, June 26, 2014; and “Sun King: Tacoma to celebrate public art installation June 25,” Tacoma Daily Index, June 9, 2014).

Sculptor Tom Morandi, Tacoma Arts Commission Chair Traci Kelly, and Tacoma City Councilmember David Boe gathered in downtown Tacoma this summer to celebrate the installation of Morandi's Sun King sculpture in a public park near Thea Foss Waterway. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Sculptor Tom Morandi, Tacoma Arts Commission Chair Traci Kelly, and Tacoma City Councilmember David Boe gathered in downtown Tacoma this summer to celebrate the installation of Morandi’s Sun King sculpture in a public park near Thea Foss Waterway. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

“Tacoma has changed immensely since those days,” said Morandi, comparing circa-1977 Tacoma, when he installed Sun King, to Tacoma today. “Tacoma has become an art destination.” He described walking the length of Broadway Plaza to Theatre on the Square this week and being delighted to find public art and fountains along the way.

He also explained why his sculpture was named “Sun King” instead of, say, “Cloud King,” “Rain God,” or even “Emperor of the Vast and Unforgivable Gray.”

“I wasn’t being ironic,” Morandi told supporters on Wednesday. “You know better than I — as well as I, anyway — November through April, it’s either raining or about to rain. But every once in a while — a couple of moments maybe, maybe a day or two — the sun comes out and all of a sudden perceptions shift. Things aren’t the same as they were before.” Morandi wanted his sculpture to speak to that change in perception.

It was the perfect metaphor for Tacoma’s love/hate relationship with Sun King (see “Sun King Dethroned: Can Tacoma ever appreciate this piece of public art?” Tacoma Daily Index, Feb. 5, 2014). A newspaper columnist writing during the 1970s compared the piece to “giant dinosaur droppings.” Letters for and against the public sculpture appeared in local newspapers. In 1977, a Tacoma resident out for his morning walk encountered Morandi and proclaimed the sculpture a “waste of money.” Today, Morandi lives in Oregon. He is a professor emeritus at Oregon State University in Corvallis, and created public art for the State of Oregon, University of Portland, City of Aberdeen, Clark County, and Oregon State University.

Standing in front of Sun King on a bright and warm day this summer, Morandi told his supporters, “To those of you who made this happen, you have my sincere respect and admiration.”

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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. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.