Richard Jarel's sculpture of three salmon similar in design to this one will swim in the wind over the fountain in front of the criminal justice building in Medford. - Bob Pennell

Salmon sculpture finds a home in Medford fountain

MEDFORD — The city is buying a local artist's sculpture of three fish swimming in the wind and hope to have it installed in the "mayor's fountain" in time for the fall salmon run.

The Medford Arts Commission will purchase Richard Jarel's "Salmon Flight" for $33,000 to place in the city-owned fountain in front of the Jackson County's justice building on the corner of Eighth and Oakdale avenues.

The piece is one of the 14 proposals submitted last year for the center of the roundabout at Siskiyou Boulevard and Highland Drive. After three years of discussion, the City Council and Arts Commission decided in March the roundabout was not the best place for a sculpture.

Althea Godfrey, commission chairwoman, said the sculpture will be well-suited to the fountain.

"We always knew we were interested in this piece but not for the roundabout," she said. She said the good news is the commission was able to seize a window of opportunity. "There were other cities interested in that piece. The hometown team won on that."

Plans are to have the sculpture, which will be on a pole at least 15 feet tall, in place in September.

The three fish, made of high-tech urethane, epoxy and fiberglass-like substances, have multiple pieces and hinges so they make fish-like movements in the wind.

"It actually swims and undulates — it just totally comes alive," said Jarel of Medford. He said he thinks people will enjoy looking at it. "Kinetic is so different from other art, we're so attracted to motion."

And placing the sculpture in the center of the water fountain adds to the movement.

"I couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect place," he said.

Mayor Gary Wheeler said it was his favorite piece of the 14 submissions because it's a moving piece and it represents Pacific Northwest salmon. And though Medford is looking for ways to fund city services, the public art fund is a dedicated fund, meaning that money must go to public art and cannot be used for other city needs. He said public art is an important component of urban scenes, and makes cities more livable.

Godfrey said the commission did not have to put out a new request for proposal (RFP), as long as they select a piece from the roundabout RFP within a year.

The Arts Commission has purchased several pieces of public art over the years, including numerous paintings hanging in city buildings and the bronze chess player in Vogel Plaza and bronze musicians on Ninth and Central avenues, both sculptures by Pleasant Hill artist Pete Helzer.

Godfrey said the Arts Commission is next looking at placing a public art piece in or near The Commons, the multi-block redevelopment project planned for the area between Riverside and Central avenues and Third and Sixth streets.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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