Please join us for a weekend of events to
DEDICATE | EXHIBIT | CELEBRATE
the work of Artist and Blacksmith Russell Jaqua
- Sculpture Dedication on Saturday, November 2, 4pm, Visitors Center Plaza: Ribbon-cutting ceremony for public art sculpture, titled For Willene, acquired by the City of Port Townsend. Our new City Manager, John Mauro, and Willene Jaqua McRae will offer brief remarks in celebration of the City’s newest piece of public art. The new Visitors Center Plaza is located at 2409 Jefferson St across from Kai Tai Lagoon. Park at Haines Pl. Park & Ride where Jaqua's Heron Weathervane is sited, and then walk to the Plaza to join the celebration!
- Art Walk on Saturday, November 2, 2019 – 5:30-8pm: Public opening of THE NEW IRON AGE: A CELEBRATION OF ARTWORKS BY RUSSELL JAQUA is a joint exhibit of the remaining artwork in the Jaqua collection. The exhibit is in two locations: Port Townsend School of the Arts Grover Gallery, 236 Taylor St, and Northwind Arts Center, 701 Water St, Port Townsend. Exhibit runs through December 1, 2019.
- Art Talk on Sunday, November 3, 12noon-1:30pm, Rose Theatre: Screening of the Jane Champion documentary: The Blacksmith Boondoggle: Making “For Willene”, followed by a panel discussion: Russell Jaqua and the New Iron Age of the American Craft Movement. Panelists: Phil Baldwin, Snohomish, WA; Michael Bondi, San Francisco, CA; Fred Borcherdt, Tucson, AZ; Jim Garrett, Port Townsend, WA. Rose Theatre, 235 Taylor St, Port Townsend. Doors open at 11:30am, tickets: $5 available at the door.
The design of the sculpture, For Willene, grew out of the spiral motif that can be found as a decorative cornice detail of the historic Port Townsend City Hall building. Russell first used this spiral motif in his design of the railings for the City Hall Annex, a project which proved to be his last architectural commission. Shortly after designing the railing, he was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and given less than one year to live. During this period, he became fascinated with the Messier Spiral Galaxies, particularly Messier 101, known as the Pinwheel Galaxy. He associated the spiral as a symbol of the eternal, a cosmic form inherent in the structure of nature. As he approached his final birthday in February 2006, he designed a sculpture in honor of his wife, Willene, based on the spiral form. He intended it as a portal of connection, telling her that if she ever needed to find him, she could stand in the sculpture and look toward Messier 101, located in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The sculpture is in honor of the power of beauty which connects us all. Similarly, Russell felt his design of the City Hall railing embodied a connection between the early Port Townsend citizens, who had cared enough to decorate their City Hall with a cornice detail, and present day citizens whose aesthetic values can be seen throughout the community. In his final artist statement, given during the dedication of the City Hall railing on December 12, 2005, he wrote:
People have asked about the railing’s motif. It is an allusion to the stamped metal ornamentation on the upper exterior of the original building. I realize it’s a subtle echo from old to new. Not many will notice. But I like to imagine the satisfaction of the person who discovers the repetition of the decorative gesture, reaching across one hundred years as if to say: ‘Greetings! We the people of Port Townsend are still here…and we still care about beautiful things.’
Eventually, Port Townsend adopted the railing’s spiral motif for its logo, the graphic image appearing on all vehicles, mastheads, and signage associated with the City. The sculpture, For Willene, repeating this spiral motif, was created during an extraordinary birthday party on February 17-19, 2006. Because Russell and his wife, Willene, shared the same birthday, Russell wanted to give her the sculpture as a final birthday gift. To help him, 32 artist-blacksmiths from all over the United States came to Port Townsend to create the sculpture over the long President’s Day Weekend. The party was called the Blacksmith Boondoggle because no one thought the project could be completed in three days. But the magical creation of For Willene was successful, and captured on film by Jane Champion who later screened the documentary, The Making of For Willene, during the 2006 Port Townsend Film Festival. The film will again be screened as part of the Dedication ceremonies scheduled for the weekend of November 2/3, 2019. Russell died on June 10, 2006, just one week after the dedication of his sculpture, Leafwing, on the Larry Scott Memorial Trail. Maps showing the location of his public work in the City are available at both the Grover Gallery and Northwind Arts Center.