Arist exploring new options after proposing 14-foot-tall hazelnuts

The city of Tigard is going back to the drawing board for its public art program downtown after the City Council and others raised eyebrows about two planned sculptures along Southwest Main Street.

In July, Portland artist Brian Borello unveiled his plans to build several filbert-like sculptures on each end of Southwest Main Street as part of the city’s redevelopment efforts downtown.

But some city officials and downtown business owners were concerned the sculptures were too reminiscent of parts of the human anatomy.

Now, the city is rethinking its plans for the sculpture, and Sean Farrelly, redevelopment project manager for downtown, said the artist is working up new alternative concepts.

The plan was to build two large sculptures at each end of Main Street, at the corner of Main Street and Greenburg Road, and at Main Street near Johnson Street.

It was the city’s first leap into the world of public art projects.

Borello — a Portland artist who has designed sculptures for several TriMet MAX stops, and other locations — said the hazelnuts were meant to harken back to Tigard’s early days, when filbert orchards were commonplace.

In Borello’s design, two 14-foot-tall nuts would stand sentinel at each end of Main Street, and pulse with a reddish glow at night.

The $60,000 project was approved by the City Center Advisory Commission, but the City Council wasn’t sold.

In July, city officials expressed concern at what Councilor Jason Snider called “high school-boy-level thinking” when it came to the appearance of a pair of testicular-looking objects bookending Main Street.

“I can see the headlines now, ‘This just in, Tigard is nuts,’” said City Councilor Marc Woodard at the time. “I like what you have got, but I don’t know that it’s quite the right thing.”

Borello told the council he didn’t find the designs to be “particularly testicular” and said it instead elevates a part of the natural world to a status it hasn’t really seen before.

Nevertheless, Borello has been asked to come up with a new set of designs.

The city commissioned art last year to help spruce things up near downtown. Paid for through the city’s urban renewal fund, the sculptures are meant to be the first in several art projects completed in the next several years.

The new concepts will need to pass through the City Center Advisory Commission — a committee of business owners and residents — for approval before going on to the City Council for final approval.

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