Auburn’s new-look plaza begins to take shape

Sheila Klein designed and fabricated the lights to provide "a striking entrance" to Auburn's downtown core, giving it a crisp, contemporary feel.

Sheila Klein designed and fabricated the lights to provide “a striking entrance” to Auburn’s downtown core, giving it a crisp, contemporary feel.

Indeed, the two fiber optic artwork lanterns above the City of Auburn’s plaza renovation project will not only light things up, they will help to frame it.

“It’s a contemporary interpretation of a rich history,” said Greg Watson, a member of Auburn’s Arts Commission.

Six feet high atop two, 24-foot-high poles, with a finial on top of the lanterns, the fiber optic sculptures are light and airy, an exaggerated form of the City light standard. Energy-efficient fiber optic strands circle stainless steel rings to create the curve. The finials and bases are both hand made.

City officials will dedicate and name the plaza at a ceremony in April.

Klein, a resident of Bow, Wash., has completed numerous public art projects in the last 25 years. Her work, she said, responds to site and uses resources wisely to evoke “amazement and delight.” She said she strives to maintain authenticity and appropriateness, and is especially interested in sites where people interact, pass through, or gather, she said.

Locally, Klein created the artwork at the Kent Regional Justice Center, Kent, Washington in 1997 and the Sky Within, Link Light Rail McClellan Station in Seattle.

Klein said she drew her inspiration for the plaza piece from design elements unique to the long-defunct Northern Clay Company.

A seven-member committee of citizens, artists and arts commissioners chose the artist with the goal of creating a prominent artwork that would welcome visitors to City Hall. The selection panel chose Klein because of her contemporary, clean and contemporary aesthetic, and her experience with lighting projects. The civic setting, along with the variety of individuals that visit the City Hall, were essential in the progression from initial concept to completed sculpture.

This public artwork will be the latest addition to Auburn’s collection of public art, now at more than 20 locations throughout the city, including artwork at the Auburn King County Library, Pioneer Cemetery, Game Farm Park and Brannan Park’s skate park, all recognizing the important role art plays in civic revitalization and neighborhood development.

The Auburn Arts Commission created its Art in Public Places program in 1988 and commissions new work to enhance the city’s parks, streetscapes, infrastructure and civic institutions. The Art in Public Places program is managed by The Auburn Arts Commission and Auburn Parks, Arts & Recreation manages the Art in Public Places program.