If you’re passing by Tollefson Plaza and think something’s missing, you’re right. Among the scattered words, syllables and sculptures made by Tacoma citizens from the 4,000 giant colored letters dumped there on July 31 (an ongoing interactive art piece by James Sinding) was “Wave,” a giant royal-blue Erector set arranged into a cascade down Tollefson’s giant steps by artist Alexander Keyes. Both “Letters” and “Wave” were part of the Spaceworks summer art project. But “Wave” isn’t there any more – the sculpture had apparently been rearranged by someone who thought it was, like Sinding’s letters, also interactive. It wasn’t.
“I had to remove it,” said City arts administrator Amy McBride at an Arts Commission meeting Monday night. “Sadly, in the heat of the activity with the letters, someone thought it was interactive and took it upon themselves to take it apart and reconfigure it.”
The letters, however, are still very much there. There aren’t quite as many of them as were there at the giant dump-truck dumping on July 31, when Tollefson was as full as I’d ever seen it with people gaily forming phrases along the steps and stealing from each other’s words to make giant sculptures of O’s and W’s. (Including me and my kids.) Now the words are more cryptic – things like O..W…NASH..ILLE, and ..O..E…HIHULY, or just simply OOOOOOOOO. Some have, inevitably, ‘walked away’. It would be very cool to think they’d make random appearances around downtown, a city sprouting multicolor words in unexpected places. None have, yet. But, as McBride says calmly, “It’s meant to be temporary. The letters will just be there til they’re not there anymore.”
Will the City put “Wave” back? No, says McBride. Too risky. There’s still one piece of semi-permanent art up there, though: Janet Marcavage’s gorgeous flowers, cut out of paper (rain-proof) and attached to the light-rail fence line like a festival.
Meanwhile, check back at Tollefson next week for “Seaside Opera,” a poetic, musical and visual performance by Seattle poet Mimi Allin recreating the atmosphere of the beach. She’ll be performing the 15-minute piece daily on the half-hour from 2-7 p.m. every day next week, Aug. 16-21.
Tollefson Plaza is at South 17th Street and Pacific Avenue, Tacoma. All events are free. Information: www.spaceworkstacoma.com