In the public eye: Dan DeRoux to install paneled pieces on transit center

Posted: Thursday, September 09, 2010

Itching to hit the streets is Juneau artist Dan DeRoux's adornment to the still-under-construction Downtown Transit Center. Many artists competed for the chance to display their work on the Main Street structure, but DeRoux was chosen for his design that honors the Juneau of old as well as the capital in its current light - literally, the piece will be lit from dusk to dawn.

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Libby Sterling / Juneau Empire
Libby Sterling / Juneau Empire

The sculpture, titled "Precipitation," will consist of 16 panels arranged to form one cohesive work. The individual parts have been created via a digital process in which the painted images are scanned and entombed in enamel that is then baked onto aluminum. Twelve of the panels are 3-foot square, 6-inch deep icons of the town's history that will be mounted on brackets and lit from behind. The other four will be mounted beneath the others, joining to create a panoramic scene of downtown Juneau.

"I'd get the binoculars out and look across the channel for references," DeRoux said.

The content of each of the pieces were designed to appeal to certain viewers, as was the arrangement of the panels.

"When you design public art, you really have to consider who the user groups are going to be," DeRoux said.

His user groups range from locals to tourists, and from government workers to Alaska Natives. The 12 square panels each feature designs specifically catered to appeal to the many types of people who will view them, with images including the state flag, a corner of the capitol, a cruise ship, an Eagle totem, a Raven totem, the Alaska-Juneau Mine, a Pacific Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose and a cannery label.

Perhaps most notable is DeRoux's nod to the local folks who weren't in favor of the construction of the transit center in the first place. They're going to see the building every day, DeRoux thought, so why not give them a piece of the work as well? He did so in the arrangement of the panels, the placement of which mimic pieces of the building tumbling down.

"It was such a controversial building," he said. "So many people hate it, and they're paying for it. So, the tumbling blocks are like the building falling down."

Below the tumbling blocks lies a very detailed rendering of the capital city, including every house, building and street light as it's seen from the artist's Douglas studio. The 12-foot-long, 4-panel piece will be mounted just above eye level. Holes will be drilled into the aluminum on points in the composition where street and window lights occur, and the artist will use fiber optic lights to illuminate the town by night.

DeRoux found the history of Alaska and its capital a big source of inspiration when designing the piece. Its title reflects the history referenced in its content, in which "everything precipitates the next."

"There's so much history and continuity, and I see value to that but I think it's lost on a lot of people," he said. "So I kind of like to engender a sense of continuity and history in these art pieces, and maybe these guys who are walking along the street during the session will think that there's value to (Juneau)."

DeRoux considers it an honor to have been chosen to install such a highly visible, historic piece in his hometown. "Precipitation" is slated to be installed pending the completion of the transit center.

Concurrently, he will install another public piece near the entrance of the newly renovated Harborview Elementary School. The piece, designed around the idea of "water and fun," consists of several round panels, each containing an image with a photograph of a bubble superimposed on top. The bubbles, which appear to float higher and higher above the 9-foot-wide panel, include images of children engaged in various activities, the face of a harbor seal (the school's mascot) and other daydreamy, "fun" contents.

DeRoux hopes to complete the installation of both pieces by late September.

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