Crow With Fries artist Peter Reiquam speaks to the audience during an artist reception at the Auburn Community and Event Center on May 1. Reiquam is sculpting the city-commissioned public art piece that will land at Les Gove Park on May 31. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Crow With Fries artist Peter Reiquam speaks to the audience during an artist reception at the Auburn Community and Event Center on May 1. Reiquam is sculpting the city-commissioned public art piece that will land at Les Gove Park on May 31. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Talking Crow with Fries

Community celebrates soon-to-be winged-and-fried addition to Les Gove Park

Today, it’s more than 180 numbered, 3-and-1/16ths-of-an-inch-thick aluminum plates, triangles and rhomboids, fresh from the water-cutter, stacked in an artist’s custom-built studio in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.

On May 31, however, sculptor Peter Reiquam will pack those plates into a big truck for the journey down I-5 to Auburn’s Les Gove Park. Once there, he’ll fasten them to a metal skeleton before welding and grinding the whole into a seamless, 12-foot high, polished aluminum crow.

With its whimsically-cocked head and beady eyes intent on a metal bag of fries nearby, eyes that light up at night, Crow with Fries will become a lasting nod to the long-gone Big Daddy’s Drive-In, and to the many-beaked murder of crows that calls the park home.

“When the piece is done, I think it’s really going to be popular,” Reiquam told more than 100 people who swooped into the Auburn Community and Event Center on May 1 to the artist’s opening reception to hear about the piece, and to learn a thing or two about crows from Ph.D John Marzluff, crow expert, researcher and University of Washington professor.

“One of my requirements was to make something that was iconic and a selfie opportunity. Because this thing is so big, I think it’s really going to have an impact,” Reiquam said. “It has a sense of humor because the bird’s head is a little bit cocked to the side over the french fries. … I hope it will be a real icon, not just for the park but also for the city.”

An icon, certainly, but while you can sit on the fries, hey, no scaling the big bird.

The city acquired the Big Daddy’s site to create a more public entryway to the park from Auburn Way South, and razed the building. It fell to the Auburn Arts Commission to identify that parcel as an important area of the park. A subcommittee selected Reiquam’s art idea, and the arts commission and City Council confirmed the choice.

The city kept the remnant of the old drive-in, the awning structure that cars once parked underneath, as a reminder of what had stood on that site for so many years. But without an associated building, Reiquam said, people would certainly wonder, “Hey, what’s up with those blue poles standing there by themselves?”

The crow is to provide the answer.

Reiquam has created interactive, site-specific public art for more than 30 years. Each of his studio projects is a “unique response to the special character of a given site, inspired by its history, culture, architecture and surrounding landscape.”

Reiquam has created interactive, site-specific public art for more than 30 years. Each of his studio projects is a “unique response to the special character of a given site, inspired by its history, culture, architecture and surrounding landscape.”

Marzluff discussed the big-brained crow, which in terms of sheer intelligence, he said, is much more like a monkey than it is a typical bird, and can live as long as 30 years.

They see the world in the ultra-violet, spectrum, which human beings cannot, and a crow’s glossiness may have something to do with its ability to communicate with its fellows, he said.

They are known to gather around their dead, and to hold what experts call “funerals,” even bringing gifts and covering the deceased bird with sticks.

And if you tick off a crow, Marzluff said, not only will you make an enemy of that one, particular bird, but it will also tattle on you to its fellow crows, and they will pass on their collective pique against you to succeeding generations, harass you, perhaps regularly gather over your car for a community “frosting.”

In celebration of Crow with Fries, the city has coordinated a crow-themed community art exhibition, The Celebration of the Crow, with local artist, curator and crow partisan Greg Bartol. The works are on display at the Community & Event Center until July 9.

Other artists with works on display are: Liz Ashley; Mary Ellen Bowers; Ricco DiStefano; Cynthia Gerdes; Mary Beth Hynes; Judy Lane; Judy Lee; Vikram Madan; Leo Osborne; Sally Penley; Steven Ray; Wendy Ray; Catherine Thompson; Judy Salas; Judith Smith; Lydia Sutton; and Gretchen Van Dyke.

For full details, visit auburnwa.gov/crowwithfries.

Artist Peter Reiquam. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Artist Peter Reiquam. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

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