Whale statue project prepares for last phase

Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The bronze Whale Project is moving forward and is gearing up for its final phase.

Kathy Ruddy, one of the members of the Whale Committee, updated the city Parks and Recreation Committee on Tuesday night on the project's status.

The $2.2 million project includes a 25-foot bronze whale sculpture inside a reflecting pool fountain.

Ruddy said the city has committed to $1.2 million for site-work at what is referred to as "the wedding cake", the layered tiers at Marine Park.

The group members have been holding fundraisers and selling engraved bricks for the main portion of the project.

A private investor commissioned a small model of what the sculpture will look like. The juvenile sculpture was recently completed and will be shipped in the spring to University of Alaska Southeast.

The final phase, the full-scale adult sculpture, is expected to start in spring of 2011.

Ruddy said the group has raised about $200,000, but still needs $250,000 to begin the final phase.

The whale idea came about in the early 1990s, and resurfaced in 2007. It's intended to commemorate Alaska's 50 years of statehood, and the bumps on the whale are in the "Big Dipper" pattern. Once completed, it will be the largest statue in Alaska, Ruddy said. Skip Wallen has been working on the smaller versions and also will complete the final project once enough funds are raised.

PRAC chairman Jeff Wilson said he was excited about the project, but asked if the Whale Committee has settled on a location.

Ruddy said the committee has not decided, however there are four locations where a project like this could go - the "wedding cake", Bridge Park, the parking garage, or the subport area. Ruddy said the committee felt Bridge Park seems like a good location.

"We would like to keep our options open," she said. "There may be other locations that would be more optimal. The waterfront is changing fast."

Ruddy said while the Assembly has committed to the "wedding cake" site, it is an area with a lot of congestion. She said Wallen also is concerned about how the sunlight will reflect on the statue and its positioning so all sites will have to be evaluated for not only how the statue looks to incoming cruise ship passengers, but also to those citizens driving past.

PRAC member Chris Mertl asked if the group picked a site other than the "wedding cake," if the city would still contribute the $1.2 million. Ruddy said she wasn't entirely sure if it would apply to another city-owned location, but the original wording of the designation was site-specific.

"I assume it would be 'no,'" she said.

Ruddy said now is when their board is going to start seeking funds from national foundations to help pay for the sculpture.

"We believe, when we start this, it's going to be an icon for the city of Juneau," she said.

Ruddysaid he hopes the build order will be able to go out in the next 6-9 months. She anticipates the actual construction to take 4-5 months of intensive work, however that doesn't mean that work will take place consecutively because of the bronze sculpting process.

For updates on the Whale Project, go to their Facebook page at: http://on.fb.me/gm6mgM.

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