Artists selected to put creative mark on garage

Posted: Friday, July 17, 2009

How do you make a garage not look like a concrete box designed to house parked cars?

"I think it's a challenge," said Barbara Craver, a member of a city committee tasked with commissioning art for the downtown transportation project.

Architects and designers of the parking garage and transit center worked to provide space for public art, and Craver's committee recently selected two artists to add style to the concrete building.

Instead of a closed-in garage, designers wanted it to be somewhat transparent for safety and aesthetic reasons. They left large open spaces between where cars will park in the garage and the covered sidewalk along Main Street. The committee chose Seattle artist Charlie Biggers to decorate about a dozen floating sheets of metal that will hang in the spaces.

"That whole walk down Main Street is going to become an attractive area," said Craver, a retired state worker and artist. "I think people are going to want to use it whether or not they have a car in the garage."

Biggers, who has worked in Juneau, Craig and Kake on projects involving art in schools, will use mountain-scapes from around the state for each panel.

"It has to be something that leads the viewer from one space to another so people would be engaged by it and follow it, as they walked along the sidewalk," Biggers said.

He is researching which of the state's best known mountains to feature. His hope is that visitors from around the state will recognize the landscapes, but a plaque below each one will identify the mountains.

The main wall sculpture was awarded to Dan DeRoux, a local artist who did "Encryption Wall" in the commons at Thunder Mountain High School.

His piece titled "Precipitation" will hang above the walkway about half way down Main Street and is meant to be viewed from across the street.

Tumbling boxes give the effect of falling, like snow or rain, DeRoux said. The idea is to give a feeling of movement, which denotes changes in the city over time.

Images of Tlingit culture, statehood and the fishing and mining industries will be projected onto the boxes. A blue wall behind them will appear as a glowing pool when lit at night, DeRoux said.

"I think it'll be a peaceful thing to look at but also a prideful thing to celebrate the capital," DeRoux said.

Below the walkway, lights in a mural of downtown Juneau will come on at dusk, mimicking the twinkling lights of downtown.

The art commissioned so far will cost about $180,000 and is part of the transportation project's total price.

The committee continues to consider how to incorporate artistic elements into a glass-enclosed transit center that will house a lobby and vendor area.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or

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