"The Passage" depicts a mother and child walking together. It will be temporarily installed at the Burien Town Square site this week. B/IAS photo

Sculptures planted in Burien

While the economic downturn is bad for business, it's good for art at the Burien Town Square site.

Burien artists plan over the next year to turn the site into a "community arts pea patch."

The first harvest from the patch will be five large sculptures to be temporarily installed Jan. 22 in a one-acre Town Square parcel at Southwest 150th Street and Fifth Place Southwest.

The site was supposed to sprout condominiums, but the Square's phase 2 has been delayed because of the economy.

So a partnership was formed between the city of Burien, Urban Partners and arts organizations Ignition Northwest, GGLO and 4-Culture to turn the underutilized construction site into an art space for a year.

The project is known as B/IAS-Burien/Interim Art Space.

Burien Arts Commissioner Dane Johnson explained how the unique partnership formed. Johnson and his wife, Kathy Justin, also an arts commission member, are spearheading the project.

Johnson said two years ago, the commission was working on ways to display temporary art around Burien.

He knew the artist who created "The Passage," a large sculpture that depicts a mother and child walking together to share and explore life, and thought it would be a good artwork to kick off the temporary installations. However, the piece was too big for any proposed sites in Burien.

At a meeting, Johnson sat next to Dan Rosenfeld from Urban Partners, developer of the Square. Rosenfeld was reading an article in a Seattle magazine quoting an artist as saying Burien's emerging arts scene was turning the city into the "new Brooklyn."

According to Johnson, he told Rosenfeld that he was the artist quoted in the article and said he was looking for a large outdoor space to exhibit art in Burien. From that conversation, followed by six to nine months of legal negotiations, the underutilized construction site became a temporary artistic gathering spot, Johnson noted.

The partners have secured five large-scale initial sculptures for the site.

The main sculpture, coming from Oakland, is "The Passage." Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito created it for the 2005 Burning Man Arts Festival in Nevada.

The figures loom 30 and 20 feet tall and are fabricated out of recycled and scrap metal. The mother figure weighs five tons while the child tips the scale at three tons.

Cranes will begin installing the large sculptures on Jan. 22 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Some of the sculptures, including "The Passage," "Fire-pod" and "Synapse Naust" sport "fire features" that will be ignited on special occasions, according to Johnson. Fire testing will begin on Jan. 23.

A public celebration with fire performers, musicians and dancers begins at 4 p.m. on Jan. 24.

The installation was set for Jan. 2, but was delayed because of weather.

But Johnson and his partners envision more than a display of large sculptures.

Artists are invited to temporarily "plant " their work at the site, much like people plant vegetables in a community pea patch.

"This is going to be a community exercise in art and space," Johnson declared.

To volunteer or contribute an artwork, e-mail info@interim-art-space.com.

For more information or to donate, visit www.interim-art-space.com.

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