by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Conceptual sculptor Bill Will with one of his boats - this one installed on S.E. 17th Avenue near Rhone Street.Without knowing the context, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists – and soon, TriMet Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit MAX riders – might wonder why 38 rusting rowboats appear to “float” in the landscape strips along S.E. 17th Ave, from Powell to McLaughlin.

“This is a public art installation,” explained artist Bill Will, of Bill Will Studio.

Will, a professor at Oregon College of Art and Craft, considers himself a conceptual sculptor and installation artist, and has completed more than 30 public art commissions.

What inspired this particular concept, he said, was investigating the area’s history. “The neighborhood is settler Giddeon Tibbets’ 1851 Donation Land Claim. Tibbets referred to his parcel as ‘Brookland’, because of the river, creeks, and lakes on his property.”

When it was developed, Will added, “They changed the name current spelling, Brooklyn.”

While considering how the area has transformed from being a wildlife corridor, to becoming a multimodal transportation area with bikes, cars, buses, and now light rail, the idea for this art installation occurred to him.

“It's my metaphor of transportation and movement through here, starting with water, and adding in transportation and heavy industry,” Will told THE BEE while examining one of his decorative watercraft.

All of these boats more or less line up, as they “meander” down the street. There are groupings of them, with as many as 10 of them together, in different places throughout the mile-long installation.

To bring his concept to reality, fabricator Jim Schmidt of Art and Design Works LLC constructed the watercraft-like sculptures. He smiled as he watched two of them being loaded onto a truck for placement. “I think they came out very well,” he commented.

Installation is expected to be completed by this fall, with brief traffic impacts as each sculpture is placed.

For more information about the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project's Public Art Program, go online to:

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