Art in the Round | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Art in the Round

Traffic Circles Are Sights to See

In spite of the opinions you may have about driving through Bend's ubiquitous roundabouts—one thing's for certain: They generally contain some attractive art.

Check out the intersection of SE 3rd Street and Murphy Road for the latest example. Inside the traffic circle sits a sparkling new sculpture entitled "Gilded River," installed earlier this summer. It's one of about two dozen roundabout art projects in Bend—and one of the most visually striking. "The arches of the [tree] trunks of Gilded River come together to represent an outdoor cathedral," says Ken McCall, one of three Idaho artists who worked on it. "There are over 500 moving parts."

So who's behind all this public art? Credit local nonprofit, "Art in Public Places," started by a group of young mothers in the early '70s who originally sought out ways to bring both art classes and shows to Central Oregon.

The process starts with AiPP soliciting ideas from artists across the West.

"Bend has a great reputation for public art," says board member Jody Ward. "It's a very desirable place for a public artist to have their work displayed. That helps as far as the quality of the artists that apply. We take a look at applications and then narrow them down." Eventually, she says, Bend citizens get a chance to comment on the possible choices. Their input plays a role in the final decision—and those decisions aren't easy. Over 130 applications came in during the last artist call.

Ward also notes that most people mistakenly assume that public funding pays for this art. In fact, she says, it's funded by private donations—primarily the Bend Foundation, the philanthropic organization established by Brooks Resources.

Either way, public art pieces brighten a community's shared spaces. "I think they make you smile," Ward adds. "And as they say—if you don't like one, keep on driving."

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