Lighthouse Point facility illuminated by artistic sculptures

Published on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 by By Tara Nelson

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Walking through Blaine’s Marine Park past the new Lighthouse Point Water Reclaimation facility, one might not expect to see a wastewater treatment facility decorated with a gently cascading waterfall, a multi-colored glass sealife mosaic or a large handblown glass water droplet sculpture meant to demonstrate nature’s hydrological cycle.

The sculptures are part of the new treatment facility’s goal to blend in aesthetically to its prominent location in one of Blaine’s most popular parks. It was approved by Blaine City Council earlier this year, following the recommendations of the city’s art advisory committee.

The artists are Shirley Erickson, of Bellingham, and Marta Thoma, of San Jose, California.

In line with environmentally and energy efficient conscious goals of the new facility, both Erickson and Thoma said they used recycled and reclaimed materials such as tempered glass and old plate glass windows that would have otherwise went into a landfill.

Erickson’s piece uses stainless steel, cement and fused glass and features an illuminated waterfall with colored cast cement fish. It features salmon of various lengths that protrude through the water flowing down the glass.

The basin of the fountain contains a 7-foot deep tide pool replica that uses colorful three dimensional cast glass and cement to form a mosaic at the bottom of the pool, as well as three-dimensional fish, shells, starfish and small crabs.

The use of the plant’s reclaimed water in the fountain showcases its cleanliness and clarity.

Erickson said while she generally fabricates her own sculptures, she had help from Bellingham residents Tony Hermanutz and Jeni Cottrell.

“It’s been really fun,” she said.  “To be able to bring this idea that I’ve had for years and years into fruition is just priceless.”

Thoma designed an over sized representation of the hydrological cycle, called “Journey Of A Water Drop,” which is suspended in air as the hanging entryway art feature to enhance the main entry of the building.

The sculpture is 12 feet by 12 feet and constructed of steel, recycled bottles, glass and Plexiglas. Its design features over-sized acrylic water drops, illuminated on their exteriors with LED lighting, as well as rows of glass bottles arranged in lines and mounted onto a silver steel grid. Some of the bottles were reclaimed from the former landfill that occupied the park during the last century.

“The idea was the many travels the water drop takes is fascinating and it’s cyclical, of course, because of nature’s cycles, it comes from the sky, falls in rain, enters the groundwater; it really depends on the environmental make up of the land how it ends up in the water supply,” she said. “That and it’s just becoming a more and more precious resource, so I thought to honor water was the most appropriate thing to do for this sculpture. It’s wonderful and exciting to see communities doing their part to take care of the earth and this is a celebration of water as a resource.

“The use of recycled bottles is a signature style that I have been using since 1993 but this is the first time I’ve used native bottles.”

Blaine community development coordinator Debbie Harger said each piece cost approximately $25,000 to be paid for out of a $60,000 budget for public art for the facility. Part of that funding came from a $5,000 donation from Brown & Caldwell, and another private individual donated $1,000.

Blaine public works director Steve Banham added the cost savings from energy conservation grants from the Bonneville Power Administration was equal to the amount the city was spending on the art installations.

The remaining $10,000 will be held in a contingency fund.

Harger acknowledged some residents have expressed concern about spending $50,000 for two pieces of public art, but said the cost in relation to the size of the project is a small price to pay and will enhance the public’s experience in the park.

The other concern was ensuring the new treatment facility was not an eyesore to the community, Banham said.

“That was one of the concerns up front,” he said. “We didn’t want to create this ugly thing right in the middle of one of the jewels of our community. It is in Marine Park, after all.”

It is also consistent with the Blaine tourism and marketing plan, Harger said.

The facility also includes a small public plaza, pedestrian bridge, covered walkways and interpretive signage to attract visitors and citizens to Marine Park.