This article ran on December 1, 2011 in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News talking about public art in Moscow, Idaho. Read the full article online.
Moscow Public Art Finalists: Art for the Masses
Three in running for public art project commission
By Alan Solan, Moscow-Pullman Daily News staff writer
Next year at this time, a tiny park at the south end of Moscow will be home
to a new piece of public art.
Three Northwest artists are finalists for the $35,000 commission. The
Artists submissions will be posted on Dec. 10 and will be available for public
comment. The three finalists will make their artist presentations 3-5 p.m. on
Dec. 16 at Moscow City Hall, and the public is welcome and invited to attend.
On Dec. 17, the selection committee will choose the artist for the Wren Welcome
The art will be placed in the Wren Welcome Garden, a quarter-acre park that
forms the southern gateway to Moscow’s downtown business district. The site is
on the north side of Jackson Street, adjacent to Gritman Medical Center and two
blocks from the University of Idaho campus.
The three finalists for the commission are Chris J. Wrench, of Hood River.,
Ore.; husband-and-wife team Jennifer Corio and Dave Frei of Vancouver, Wash.;
and Robert M. Horner of Port Townsend, Wash.
In developing their proposals, candidates were asked to consider the Moscow
Arts Commission’s theme of “Where Art Meets the Land,” which pays
homage to the region’s unique agricultural heritage and landscape.
Corio and Frei, a former Moscow resident, operate Cobalt DesignWorks in
“To me the Palouse has a very soothing and sensual beauty,” Corio
said. “The West has many beautiful places, some I’d call shocking,
in-your-face beauty like the North Cascades and Columbia River Gorge. Compared
to them the Palouse is very peaceful and unique. The landscape itself has
become my muse for this project.”
Corio said public art is a valuable asset to a community on several levels.
“It brings art outside for everyone to enjoy, even those who don’t
otherwise have much exposure to art in their lives or those who may feel
reluctant to visit galleries and museums,” she said.
Additionally, she said, art in a public space can help start conversations
between people regardless of – and often because of – differing points of view.
“People may love a work of art for many reasons while others may
dislike it for various reasons. These kinds of conversations can be quite
interesting, perhaps even intense, but the point is people are talking about
art and the feelings it can evoke.”
Corio said investing in public art sends a strong statement that a community
cares about its cultural vitality.
“Study after study has shown that people are drawn to neighborhoods
that have that artistic buzz,” she said. “And when the people come,
other businesses see the opportunity and set up shop. Soon the neighborhood has
its own thriving local economy.”
Horner owns and operates RMH Design in Port Townsend, Wash. Originally from
the United Kingdom, Horner moved to the United States at age 7. He earned
bachelor’s degrees in architecture and environmental design from Ball State
University. After working for Seattle architecture firms Olson Sundberg Kundig
Allen Architects (now Olson Kundig Architects) and David Vandervort Architects,
Horner decided to focus full time on creating public art and formed RMH Designs
Public artwork should be “an instrument or framework to facilitate a
deeper and more profound connection to place,” Horner said.
“Often times artwork is seen merely as an object, and I believe that
this perspective encourages the objectification of the environment. On the
contrary, I believe it is the important responsibility of the public artist to
go beyond this stereotype and create work that provides a window into the
unseen, hidden, unique and specific circumstances of site and place.”
Horner’s first public art piece was installed at Harborview Medical Center
in Seattle in 2009, and he then began planning his “Tidal Resonance
Chamber,” Tacoma’s first rammed-earth construction, which was installed
near the Port of Tacoma on Commencement Bay.
Horner said he doesn’t “design for design’s sake,” but rather to
“facilitate a deeper understanding of a particular facet of existence.
“For me, creativity occurs when the artist takes into full
consideration the broad spectrum of site circumstances and processes these
circumstances in a manner that both accentuates and highlights place. I never
have a prescribed approach to public artwork. Each project is specific to the
place. I work with a variety of materials, yet I always strive to use materials
that are natural, durable and reflect the fundamental principles of the
While he enjoys many aspects of creating public art, Horner said one of the
most enjoyable parts is learning about the land and communities where the art
will be placed and the way they relate to each other.
“Second, I love creating work that enriches daily experience. There is
a great challenge to conceptualizing, designing and building work for the
public. Ultimately, providing a work that facilitates others to make a more
profound connection to their surroundings, evoking such responses as curiosity,
intrigue or joy is why I am an artist,” Horner said.
“I strongly believe that artwork has the power to enhance awareness of
place and this is what I fundamentally strive toward. I have appreciated the
opportunity to deepen my understanding of Moscow and to create a conceptual
work that is rooted in the unique circumstances of your place.”
Corio said conceptual development is one of her favorite parts of the public
“I love doing background research and listening openly to what is
important to those involved. It’s a little like playing detective. Art is
storytelling and one must know the story well to convey it through art. I then
cull through all the input to gain my own perspective and work to translate it
into a concept/design that really resonates with both locals and
On the Web:
- Chris J. Rench, www.cjrdesignstudio.com
- Jennifer Corio, www.cobaltdesignworks.com
- Robert M. Horner, www.robertmhorner.com
Alan Solan can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 235, or
by email at email@example.com.