Final Roundabout art OK’d by Poulsbo council

The city of Poulsbo has approved artwork for the Johnson Road/Highway 305 Roundabout after many months of negotiation with artists and the public on concepts.

The final artpiece, designed and created by local artist Elijah Burnett, will cost $120,000 and will be installed sometime in late 2022, following completion of the roundabout itself.

“Land of the Maples” is a contemporary design forged from steel using the method of blacksmithing. Framed in a spherical shape that evokes looking through a porthole at the beautiful nature surrounding Poulsbo, two indigenous people hold their paddles up in a gesture of peace on the serene Liberty Bay, while a heron tending its nest makes a home from the maple branches and leaves of this land,” Burnett said in his artist statement shared with the City Council.

This piece will stand about 14 feet high and weigh roughly 2,000 pounds and will be finished with a boiled linseed oil to protect it from nature’s elements.

The glass vine maples on the main piece will be wraught around a welcome sign that will read “Welcome to Poulsbo, land of the vine maples.” The Arts Committee is working with Suquamish artist Kate Avacano on the translation of the welcome message to Lushootseed, the language of the that tribe. Additionally, a retaining wall will feautre a mural of the mountains that is reflective of Poulsbo’s view of the Olympics on sunny days, with a section of that wall to include traditional Salish art.

“There was a lot of discussion about what truly represents Native art versus what represents art for all of the community,” said Daine Lenius, a Poulsbo city engineer. “I think the key element of determination there was that Native art needs to be truly a piece of Native, authentic art in addition to the representation that’s there.”

The artpiece has been used as seed to grow goodwill between the city of Poulsbo and the Suquamish Tribe as the relationship has been strained since the shooting death of Stonechild Chiefstick by a Poulsbo police officer in 2019.

Early plans for roundabout artwork had been Viking City centric. Public comment called for the city to get input from the Suquamish Tribe. Eventually the Arts committee, with approval from the city, chose to remove those Nordic concepts and sought public input on the new concept.

“This has been one of the most intense portions of being on the City Counil in my first year– Like a lot of very vulnerable and intense conversations we’ve had, it has not been easy, but most things that are not easy are also worthwile,” said Councilwoman Britt Livdahl, who is also on the Arts Committee.