Public art program seeks ideas for Shute Park installation
Last summer, Hillsboro's iconic "Chief Kno-Tah" statue was removed from Shute Park after it was damaged by storms.
At the time, the city said it would replace the statue with something new, and this week its public art program is asking residents' opinions on what that new art installation should be.
The city is calling for art ideas for Shute Park, with a new online survey asking the public what they want to see replacing the popular statue, which stood sentinel over Tualatin Valley Highway for decades.
City staff will be accepting submission ideas in-person at the El Grito Community Festival on Saturday, Sept. 15, as participants are doing art activities in the park. They also plan to visit Hillsboro's Senior Center.
"We are doing a different process," Otani said. "We are taking a step backwards and saying, 'What would people like to see?'"
Carved from a single piece of wood in 1986, the statue depicted a large Native American face. The statue was named after a subchief of the Tualatin Kalapuya people who lived in the area. The statue stood near the entrance to Shute Park and quickly became one of the city's most iconic pieces of art.
Years of rot inside the statue, combined with damage from a falling tree last winter forced the city to remove the statue, but those plans were met with controversy by some who saw the statue as a symbol for native peoples. Some city residents attempted to save the statue, and tentatively found a new home for it at Harvey's Marine in Aloha. City officials said the wooden statue was too badly rotted and damaged to be moved.
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde said it would not fight the statue's removal. The statue did not accurately represent the Kalapuya tribe or represent the tribe's artistic traditions.
Hillsboro's Public Art Program Supervisor Valerie Otani said the city is in "deep listening mode" and that the program wants to be inclusive and the public's voice to be heard.
"What was very clear was that a broad swath of the community misses the former statue," she said. "Although it was not accurate from the Native American cultural point of view, it was still a beloved landmark and it ranged from people who remember seeing (the statue) being created or people who came to the park throughout the years."
Otani said some residents have asked that the replacement honor Native American culture, while others have mentioned wanting an interactive art installation.
"There is a whole generational change on the way people view art where it is not necessarily a statue to be there for a hundred years, but instead something you have an experience with your family and can take a picture with," she said.
After the statue's removal, city officials said they would be willing to work with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to bring more "culturally relevant art" to Hillsboro.
After taking in comments, the program will put out a call to artists to construct the new art installation, Otani said.
The public art program is accepting submissions until Sunday, Sept. 30. The online survey can be taken here.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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