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Ashland opens selection process for entry island sculpture

The city of Ashland is searching for public art that could cost up to $100,000 for a prominent downtown location.

A large traffic median between the Ashland library and Fire Station No. 1 has long been earmarked for a major public art sculpture.

Known as the gateway island, the space marks the entryway to Ashland's downtown for people coming from areas to the southeast, including Exit 14 and Southern Oregon University.

Ashland's Public Arts Commission is asking interested artists to submit information about their qualifications, including their resumés and images of past work, by March 31.

"I can tell you that the commission is envisioning a piece of art that creates excitement and visual interest, one that enhances the experience of entering our downtown core and one that, over time, becomes iconic to our city," said Sandy Friend, vice-chairwoman of the Public Arts Commission.

The selection process is open to artists in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho and Montana. Students cannot apply.

The arts commission debated whether to limit the pool to artists in the Rogue Valley or Oregon, but decided to expand the search area.

"It's about casting the net as wide as possible for the best possible artists working in public art," said city of Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer, city staff liaison to the all-volunteer arts commission.

By the end of June, the arts commission will review the submissions from artists about their credentials and select up to five artists or artist teams to continue on in the selection process.

The finalists must visit Ashland before October and then begin creating public art proposals for the gateway island.

The finalists will each receive $500 for travel expenses.

A year later, the finalists must return to Ashland and present their ideas to the community and the arts commission in September 2015.

"The community will be weighing in on this heavily," Friend said.

Each finalist will be paid $2,500 for that phase of the process plus another $500 each for travel expenses.

An artwork selection panel — separate from the arts commission — will notify the winning artist or artist team before the end of 2015.

The artist or team will receive up to $100,000 to cover final design, engineering, fabrication, shipping, installation and other costs.

While that amount might seem expensive, Seltzer said the figure is not uncommon for significant public art pieces.

The public art will be installed in the fall of 2016.

Money for the project is slated to come from the city's hotel tax — 3 percent of which is dedicated to public art, Seltzer said.

The city may seek funding for the gateway art project from the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America.

For more information on the gateway island public art project or to apply, visit www.ashland.or.us/gateway.

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.