Portland, Corvallis artists create it with help of Albany company
The spiritual and day-to-day connections between the Kalapuya people and the Willamette River is depicted in a 40-foot-long stainless steel sculpture nearing completion at Oregon Industrial Contractors on Highway 34, west of Albany.
Native American artist Lillian Pitt of Portland and Mikkel Hilde of Corvallis began working on the massive three-piece structure in May. The work depicts a Kalapuya canoe, salmon and trout in the river and camas and cattails that were vital food resources, and is one of three pieces of artwork that will soon be installed near the Willamette River Bridge under construction near Eugene.
More than $600,000 was allocated for “design enhancements” within the $200 million project’s budget.
Pitt and Hilde applied to participate in the project about three years ago.
“We designed, cut and rolled the materials in May and took the pieces to Oregon Industrial to do the welding,” Hilde said. “The artwork committee wanted a Native American theme, and Lillian specializes in that.”
The three sections will be mounted onto concrete-base walls that are five-feet high and skim coated with a cement mixture to make them look like stone, Hilde said. They will be placed in the median that divides the northbound and southbound spans of the bridge.
“The names of the major Kalapuya tribes from the Eugene area are inscribed in the skim coating,” Hilde said.
Hilde said about 8,000 pounds of stainless steel were used in making the sculpture. There also will be bronze accents on a crescent moon and stars.
Other sculptures to be installed near the bridge are “Blue Camas Basket” by Devin Laurence Field of Portland, which will be placed at the south end of the bridge near the off ramp from Interstate 5 to Franklin Boulevard, and “Camas Basket” by the Portland-based architectural firm rhiza A&D, which will be placed at the west side of the north end of the bridge.
The project attracted 12 proposals by five artists. An ODOT committee composed of local residents made recommendations that were evaluated by the Willamette River Bridge project’s Community Advisory Group and Project Development Team.
Pitt is a descendant of the Wasco, Yakama and Warm Springs people and has worked in many mediums over the last 30 years. Her works have been exhibited internationally.
Pitt is a sculptor and mixed media artist, working in clay, bronze, wearable art, prints and glass.
For Hilde, art is a second career. He spent 31 years as a project manager in the construction industry before retiring four years ago.