Client: West Valley School District, West Valley High School
Location: Yakima, WA, United States
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $76,950
Wayne Chabre, Sculptor
“Cycle of Inquiry” was a Washington State Arts Commission project which utilized % for Art funds. The school's art selection committee suggested the commons area as one possible artwork site, and expressed interest in a suspended sculpture to hang in the skylight. The commons encompasses the cafeteria and serves as the central gathering area for events, dances, etc. The skylight is 60' x 15' in a room approximately 50' x 100'; ceiling height of 25' to the bottom of the skylight. The sculpture had to be low-maintenance, and out of reach to jumping students.
My goals for this project were to create an artwork that would carry meaning for the students and staff of the school, meet the criteria stated above within my budget, and which would be a compelling addition to a large space that is often visually distracting, with student posters, banners, etc., all around. I was not commissioned until the space was complete, so did not have input into the design of the larger space, but I hoped to enhance the space with a thought-provoking and lively sculpture. My concept for the sculpture was to place letter forms from many cultures and alphabets, and universally meaningful mathematical, musical and monetary symbols upon an aluminum Möbius strip as a metaphor for the flow of knowledge that nourishes the human soul; a representation of the life cycle, water cycle, infinity. A school is one source of the waves of advancement that follow the cycles of inquiry that are a constant in human evolution. I chose not to add color to the piece, using aluminum and translucent Lexan to take advantage of the natural light. The sculpture is 30' long x 10' wide x 5' high.
The Washington State Arts Commission was the commissioning agency, using % for Art funds. My main collaborator was my wife, fellow artist, graphic designer and calligrapher Jeanne McMenemy, who helped research and choose the various letter forms and symbols. Some she lettered by hand, some she adapted from available fonts. She then prepared the specialized digital files for the water-jet cutter, David's Aquacut & Builders, College Place, WA, who cut the forms from aluminum sheet and Lexan.
A public art project always presents the challenges of working with a committee of many diverse participants, all of whose views must be taken into account; keeping to a strict budget; occasionally having to meet quite limiting criteria regarding maintenance, siting, etc. It's always a process which can be enjoyable and frustrating in about equal measure! I am pleased with how this project turned out.