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Starla Pointer: Take a walk on the artistic side

News-Register File Photo ##
Snow falls on the Benjamin Franklin statue at the U.S. Bank Plaza in downtown McMinnville on Monday, Dec. 5. The statue is the most notorious of the city’s myriad pieces of public art.
News-Register File Photo ## Snow falls on the Benjamin Franklin statue at the U.S. Bank Plaza in downtown McMinnville on Monday, Dec. 5. The statue is the most notorious of the city’s myriad pieces of public art.

Almost every morning, I drive down Lafayette Avenue and take a right on Fifth Street, heading for the office.

So I have driven past “Expose Time,” the large red X-shaped sculpture at the northwest corner of Fifth, hundreds of times — so many, in fact, that it’s started to just blend in with all the busy-ness of the intersection.

Guest Writer

Starla Pointer has interviewed hundreds of artists during her 37 years at the News-Register, from tapestry maker Marg Johansen to sculptor Stuart Jacobsen to dozens of quilters. When she was a student at Linfield, a required class helped open her eyes to value of painting, sculpture and architecture. Another took her to England, where she was able to view in person some of the art pieces and buildings she’d studied in books.

One day, I parked safely down the block, walked to the sculpture and really looked it over.

With the red metal in the foreground and traffic streaming along Lafayette in the background, “Expose Time” captures the hustle and bustle of our daily life. While we rush here and there, driving to work or setting off on frantic vacations designed to allow us time to relax, it remains there patiently, marking a calm spot in a sea of chaotic bustle.

That’s what I see, at least. You may envision a human figure, a character in some Asian language, or just an X. Art is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

Expose Time is one of dozens of art pieces installed in public places in McMinnville. And the best way to see them — with a couple of notable exceptions — is to get out of your car and walk. That way, you get close enough to notice the little details you’d miss at 25 or 35 miles per hour.

From the eye-catching to the inexplicable, from the realistic to the abstract, from the pieces pleasing you to those only pleasing others. If you take time to look, you’ll find art on the streets, in the parks and on the college campus in McMinnville.

Compare, for example, the depiction of a World War I soldier at the Yamhill County Courthouse to the lifelike statue of Medal of Honor nominee Leonard DeWitt outside Oregon Mutual Insurance. Relax on bronze benches next to Ben Franklin or Abraham Lincoln.

Examine“Drift,” an abstract work fashioned of basalt and galvanized steel by Lee Imonen, outside the fire station. Or watch the moving wind sculptures beside the police station.

Find the rabbit on the lawn in City Park. Follow the line of students, growing and changing as they learn, on the Linfield College campus.

Many of the pieces are on display as a result of work by the McMinnville Downtown Association’s Public Art Committee.

The art is supported by the committee, the city and private businesses like Oregon Mutual Insurance.

The businesses supply most of the space for the installations. They also support the program financially.

In its latest endeavor, the Public Art Committee is placing sculptures in the new roundabouts on the west side of town.

The roundabout at Hill and Wallace already contains a sculpture called “Nepal II.” The piece features steel circles mounted above road level, making it easy to spot as you drive past.

Soon, the roundabout at Hill and Baker Creek will be getting a sculpture of its own. A work created by a Grand Ronde artist is scheduled for installation there this fall.

The downtown association publishes a brochure mapping the location of all public art in the core area. It lists the names of artist and titles of the work — an important thing, as many of the pieces aren’t labeled.

Drive past the roundabout art. But pause to consider the others up close. Get our of your car and peruse others from several different angles.

The totem pole at the McMinnville Transit Center is one of those crying to be studied from all sides.

Tiles stacked on each surface show aspects of local life in several categories: transportation, such as a train, a tractor, a hot air balloon and a paddle wheeler, like those that once brought visitors up the Yamhill River to Lafayette; agricultural products, from grapes to hazelnuts; buildings, such as the top of Pioneer Hall, Linfield’s original structure; and wildlife, including an eagle, a heron and a cougar.

One of my favorites downtown is the depiction of a plant that sits alongside the McMinnville Post Office on East Second Street.

“Miracle Grow,” by Leon White, features tall, green steel leaves rising above real plants. Red and yellow blossoms bloom year-round.

It’s a sculpture, of course, but it could have been planted by visitors to the recent UFO Fest.

Another of my favorites, and probably the one I notice most often, is the sleek little fox sitting in the foyer of the McMinnville Aquatic Center. The bronze sculpture by Georgia Gerber is dedicated to former City Manager Kent Taylor.

I’m not really sure why a fox was chosen to greet swimmers. Lynn Swanson’s penguin mother and chick, “Unconditional,” might have seemed a more obvious choice. But the woodland creature makes me smile every time I go to the pool.

Nearby, on the Adams Street side of the library, stand a pair of sculptures that are favorites for many.

Statues of young readers, they are called “Dreams” and “Book Worm.” They’re captured in bronze by Gary Lee Price, who also created the Lincoln and Franklin benches.

Library supporters loved the girl so much they raised money to make it a permanent part of McMinnville’s art collection.

The boy was added later. Now they read together constantly, inspiring others to do the same.

Don’t open your book yet, though. First, take a walk and look closely at more of the art pieces on public view in McMinnville.

 

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