Washougal sees little interest in arts panel

Application period ends Oct. 21 for those who want to join commission

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"Seaman," a sculpture designed by Heather Soderberg-Greene, sits in Reflection Plaza in downtown Washougal.

"Historic Lager," a mural designed By Travis London, adorns a wall of the Big Foot Inn Bar & Grill in downtown Washougal.

For a city of its size, Washougal has a robust arts scene, which has been nurtured and developed by passionate local residents.

That’s why Suzanne Grover, the city of Washougal’s parks and cemetery program manager, is disappointed that the city has received only one application for its new arts commission.

“It is very surprising to me,” said Grover, who will be heading the committee. “I was expecting that we would have more (applicants) right now than what we asked for. Maybe the (commission) hasn’t been known. These efforts are not as public as they should be. We need to get the word out to get more applicants.”

The application period is scheduled to close Oct. 21, with the selection process concluding by Dec. 3. The first commission meeting is expected to take place in January 2020.

“But, obviously, if we don’t have enough people for a meeting, we’ll keep (the posting) open until we get a committee,” Grover said. “We can’t meet unless we have a committee.”

Originally, the city wanted between five and nine people to serve on the commission, but with the lower-than-anticipated interest, “we’re looking for five (applicants) at this time,” Grover said. “We want to start out slow and add more members to expand the board.”

At least a majority of the members must be residents of the city of Washougal. Commission members will serve three-year terms and all positions are unpaid.

Washougal City Council appropriated $5,000 for the arts commission earlier this year. Additional funding for programs and expenses will come from grants, donations and admission charges.

“City leaders have recognized the impact art has had on the city, and want it to be preserved and promoted in the future,” Grover said. “We want to continue to introduce art into the community.”

Commission members will advise city council members on issues related to public artwork, and arts-related opportunities in the city; develop public art policies relating to art acquisition and presentation; represent the city in matters concerning public art; identify projects that could benefit from artists’ feedback or involvement; select artists for city projects; develop connections with arts organizations and the Washougal School District’s arts program; and help educate the public about the city’s art and culture offerings.

“The Washougal Arts Commission will be a forum for residents to express and share their visions, values and passion about our community,” Washougal mayor Molly Coston stated in a news release about the new commission. “I am so pleased that we, in the city of Washougal, will be able to offer yet another opportunity for our citizens to become involved in a way that will build a lasting legacy for generations to follow.”

The city wants to have at least one member from a local or regional arts organization, one youth member and one member that has held a position as an arts educator.

“That’s important because art is subjective, and there’s many facets to it, and we want to get a wide range of opinions on the definition of art to this community,” Grover said. “There are many different directions this could go. We want as wide a talent pool as we can get to weigh in on those subjects and make policies.”

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