Tacoma celebrates ‘Urban Oasis’ dedication

Editor’s Note: Dana Greenlee’s column, which normally appears on Friday, has been bumped this week. She was glad not to have to write a column for today’s paper. She’s very busy.

Under a gray sky and few drops of rain, the Tacoma Dome Neighborhood Business District and the City of Tacoma Thursday afternoon dedicated the district’s much-anticipated public art piece by Kurt Kiefer, “Urban Oasis: Washingtonia Domus.”

Doubling as a gateway of sorts into the city at the intersection of East 26th and C streets, near the end of the Tacoma Dome off-ramp from Interstate-5/Interstate 705, the large wood and metal work of art resembles a row of palm trees.

With the beginning of the U.S.-led war against Iraq the day before, the irony of the Middle Eastern theme was not lost on those at the dedication, although it did not dampen the enthusiasm of those in attendance.

The afternoon’s festivities included food from nearby restaurant Mediterranean Palace, several raffle ticket prizes and belly dancing performances by members of Tacoma’s Shahdaroba Middle Eastern Dancers.

“This hasn’t happened by accident,” said Deputy Mayor Bil Moss, praising the business community and city government for the Business District program’s latest achievement. “This spot acts as a welcome to Tacoma for the hundreds of thousands that visit Tacoma.”

Moss, who was born and raised in Detroit, joked: “Even though we don’t have a sunny climate, I’ve always wanted to see palm trees in Tacoma.”

Keith Stone, president of the Dome District Development Group, said “Urban Oasis” would serve as a good landmark for the city.

“The whole area is going to change,” he said of plans for continued development. “It’s really working.”

ME Donovan, president of the Tacoma Arts Commission, pointed out that public art has often faced a disconnect with its audience.

“Well, that certainly wasn’t the case here,” she said. “The sculpture is fun. It is eye-catching. It has a sense of whimsy.”

“Urban Oasis” artist Kurt Kiefer, University of Washington campus art administrator, was also on hand for the dedication.

“I’m proud to be part of the redevelopment of the Dome District,” he said, adding he hopes this is just the beginning.