A rooftop test for Tacoma Dome Warhol flower

The City of Tacoma will continue to explore the feasibility of decorating the roof of the Tacoma Dome with art designed by iconic pop artist Andy Warhol.

The project dates back to 1982, when the Tacoma Dome was under construction and the City invited artists to submit proposals for a public art installation at the arena, which billed itself as one of the largest wood-domed structures in the world. Warhol submitted a proposal to paint a bright flower over the exterior of the dome’s roof. Although Warhol’s work was not selected, members of Tacoma’s arts community have recently advocated for the project.

On Tuesday, Tacoma City Council’s Economic Development Committee was updated on the proposal by City of Tacoma Public Assembly Facilities Director Kim Bedier.

According to Bedier, Rainier Industries, a local company that specializes in large-sized graphics, would digitally print the Warhol flower onto an adhesive film. The City plans to test the adhesive by applying it to a portion of the roof next month. The adhesive will remain in place for six months — and under a variety of weather conditions — in order to determine its impact on the roof’s exterior surface, and how well the image holds up under the elements. The cost to design, install, and conduct the test is estimated to cost $900, which would be covered through the Tacoma Dome’s operations budget.

“Some of the things we don’t know is how the material will react with the roof, what it would look like if we decided to take it off, and how long those bright colors would necessarily stay bright colors,” Bedier told council committee members. She added that it was worth testing the material on a temporary basis because “it’s worth knowing whether this material is good for our roof or not.

“We’ve got a pretty good location on the roof where it’s not going to look like a Band-Aid stuck on,” added Bedier. “We want to put some bright colors on it because we want to understand if it’s going to fade. But we obviously don’t want people driving by thinking there is something weird happening with the roof, either. So we’ve got a pretty subtle location that will get a lot of direct sun and lots of weather.”

According to a report prepared City of Tacoma staff, design and installation for Warhol’s flower would cost approximately $2.2 million. The roof would need to be cleaned annually at a cost of $150,000. These expenses would not come from City coffers but, rather, through private fundraising.

The City of Tacoma and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts have been in dialogue about the project, according to City of Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride and Rock HushkaTacoma Art Museum’s Director of Curatorial Administration and Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art.

“About two years ago, on behalf of Amy, I met with Michael Hermann at the Andy Warhol Foundation in New York,” Hushka told council committee members on Tuesday. “He is the head of marketing and licensing for the foundation. He signaled that there would be no obstacles to realizing this project, with two caveats. One is that this is not an original Warhol, but it would be a project collaboration with the foundation to realize this idea from 30 years ago. And then, secondly, that there would be a licensing agreement that would be required from the foundation. Both, he thought, would be very easy to realize or achieve quickly, or with little amount of pain. So they’re very excited about this possibly happening, and they would throw their full support behind it.”

McBride added, “When I spoke with Michael Hermann on the phone, it was all, you know, potentiality, nothing real, but he indicated that because it would be a public project, he didn’t see them charging a licensing fee for use of the imagery, which is huge because, were it a commercial endeavor, it could be millions of dollars just to pay for a licensing fee. We would need to have some sort of agreement, certainly, because they don’t want the imagery to be misused in any way. They want to have some oversight in making sure that it represented Warhol, himself, and the foundation.”

Meanwhile, as the rooftop test is conducted, City staff will spend the next six months exploring naming rights and corporate sponsorships for the Tacoma Dome. A study recently commissioned by the City and conducted by Bonham/Wills & Associates determined the Tacoma Dome could fetch as much at $670,000 annually for corporate naming rights over a 10-year period. The study also cautioned the City against installing Warhol’s rooftop art in order to preserve a “blank canvas” for a corporate sponsor to advertise its brand.

Bedier told council committee members any prospective corporate sponsors would be made aware of the public art efforts under way at the Tacoma Dome. Some sponsors could embrace the public art and the attention it draws, others could not.

“It seems to me kind of a win-win,” she said. “It’s not stopping the project in any way. It’s actually supporting the project because we can figure out if we can actually use the material, and yet, concurrently, kind of test the waters to see if it would impact our ability to raise funds corporately.”

Bedier and council committee members stressed the importance of finding the right corporate sponsor.

“Right from the beginning, I have always stated that we need to be respectful of the Dome and its place in the community,” said Bedier. “I want buy-in and engagement not only from the council but from the community because it’s a community icon. I think we just have to do it very thoughtfully at every stage.”

Tacoma Arts Commission Chair Traci Kelly supported exploring the proposal.

“This has been kind of a discussion for quite some time in the arts community and there are a lot of people who are excited,” said Kelly. “And there are some people who are confused and concerned by either the general project or the potential maintenance. Maintenance is always a problem with public art. So we are very interested in seeing how that process could develop, and I’m glad we’re doing the research there. Personally, I think this is a really exciting project considering the potential for national acclaim and looking at Tacoma as a city that definitely does have a strong arts component.”

City staff are scheduled to return to the council committee in November with an update on the adhesive test and corporate sponsorship.

Click here to download copies of the agenda and meeting materials.

Click here to listen to audio from the meeting.


To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of public art in Tacoma and Pierce County, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengerssecond-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State; third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; and third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright. His work has appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.