All that remains today of Big Daddy’s Drive-In – or, if you are of more seasoned vintage, Rolf’s Triple X – are 14 blue metal poles that held up the restaurant’s canopy for more than 5o years before the building came a-tumbling down in 2016 to make way for the City’s expansion of Les Gove Park.
City leaders last year said they’d come up with something else to commemorate the burger joint on Auburn Way South with the iconic root beer barrel sign on top.
Well, how about this: a big metal crow with a morsel in its gob, a french fry, which the bird apparently beaked up from the spilled contents of a nearby metal box of fries?
On Feb. 12, members of the Auburn Arts Commission shared the work-of-art-to-be with members of the City Council.
Peter Reiquam, the Northwest artist behind the crow, said the giant, stylized bird should stand about 12 feet high when it takes its place between the sidewalk along Auburn Way South and the architectural remnant of the former drive-in. Facing roughly southeast, perhaps with its head cocked slightly toward the park, “the colossal corvid,” will be made of aluminum, with a durable, semi-gloss, black powder-coated finish.
“With a planar, faceted surface, the black finish will pick up light from many angles,” and subtly reflect colors from the lawn, trees and sky, Reiquam told the council. “Glass eyes will be internally illuminated using low-voltage LED lights, and additional LED fixtures will be installed in the ground surrounding the sculpture, illuminating its surface, so that the piece will be highly visible after dark.
“I wanted it to be really big, because there’s a lot of traffic flying past there, and I want people to be able to see it, and be able to recognize it for what it represents,” Reiquam said.
The City sent out the call to artists last May, and by Feb. 12, the bird with the fry in its beak was the only one left standing among the original concepts submitted by 32 artists from Washington and Oregon.
Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation Director Daryl Faber said the budget for the project is $125,000, which the City had carried in its capital budget for public art for the last two years. Each year, Faber said, the City puts $30,000 to $40,000 into the fund.
“We haven’t done a piece for the last two years in the capital facilities budget,” Faber said.
Auburn Arts Commission Chair Nancy Colson described three principles that guided commissioners in their selection: gotta be whimsical, fun, and touchable.
And, Colson, noted, the crow, “an iconic urbanite,” fit the bill.
“The committee involved thought a lot about the site where it is and how people might interact with it. We wanted to have an iconic presence that would indicate the presence of the park from Auburn Way South, and something that would make people say ‘wow’ or ‘that’s interesting,’ or stop and have their picture taken with it,” Colson said.
Reiquam said fabrication should take him about three months and installation only a matter of days.
“But realistically from the time I sign a contract (to completion) is about a year,” Reiquam said.
The City Council awarded Reiquam the contract on Tuesday, Feb. 20.