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Behind the Scenes: 'On the Fence' Art Project

The Edmonds Arts Commission (EAC) has received several inquiries regarding its newest On the Fence temporary art installation at Civic Park. Arts Commission Chair, Marni Muir, put out a statement to address questions about the On the Fence program, the Arts Commission and its programs.

On the Fence is a temporary public art program created by the EAC ten years ago. Art often stimulates thought, evokes conversation, and may be perceived differently by different people. The program was conceived as a way to provide artists an opportunity to present ideas and topics to encourage community conversation. Over the years the program has addressed a broad range of concerns and interests, while at the same time enlivening several chain link fences in the downtown core.

Proposals are reviewed and approved by the EAC at their regular monthly meetings. Review criteria include professional presentation, topics that are timely or of ongoing interest in the community, and visually engaging elements. The installations are low cost and temporary, usually exhibited for 3 or 4 months, and include an artist statement so a passerby can learn the intent of the artist. The program is an open call to artists, and the $500 honorarium is to offset cost of materials.

Believing that we want to hear from all sectors of community and be responsive to current concerns, the EAC has made an effort to simplify the submission process and to publicize the opportunity with local artists, especially younger artists in Edmonds. Over thirty unique installations have been exhibited on the three fence locations since the program started in 2010. Students, both individually and in groups, have participated in installations, addressing concerns about the salmon spawning cycle, marine pollution, and threat to pollinators.


Other installations have addressed issues of civility and divisiveness, endangered species, the solar system, and immigration, while others have created installations that are simply playful, inspiring, and engaging. The proposal for the current installation "I Can't Breathe" was submitted to the Arts Commission along with several other submissions from various artists, and two were selected. Christabel Jamison spelled out her reason for submitting, with her timing and message. Her presentation was professional and symbolic, offering inspiration and provoking thought, given the current times.

Art throughout our world and throughout the ages evokes strong responses. We may agree, agree not to agree, or outright disagree; that is our choice, and the voice of the artist is just as important as our interpretation of the final project or piece. I am proud of our City, our government and our citizens and will continue to strive to provide diversity and excellence to our City through art.

The Arts Commission also oversees the more complex process for acquiring permanent public art installations valued over $5,000. The process requires well defined opportunities for public engagement and approval by City Council. The selection process works to ensure that artworks that will be part of the community for 20 years or more are reviewed by many representatives of the community. The sculpture in the Five Corners roundabout and the twelve art pieces regarding community history along 4th Ave. N. and other points downtown are recent examples. In addition, the EAC presents free summer concerts in the parks and produces a nationally known writers’ conference, Write on the Sound, every fall for the past 35 years.

The EAC is composed of seven residents of Edmonds, four with professional experience in the arts, appointed by the Mayor and City Council. The Arts Commission oversees programs in Literary, Performing, and Visual arts and makes recommendations to Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Department, Edmonds City Council, and the Mayor on matters that pertain to the arts.

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