This project was undertaken to honor the legacy of the Weatherwax family and to inspire both local residents and those that pass through Grays Harbor towards generosity and commitment to community. The artwork is intended to support both motorist drive-by and up-close pedestrian viewing experiences, and is comprised of architectural sandstone blocks from the old J.M. Weatherwax High School as a re-use material, along with landscaping and lighting.
In 2002, Aberdeen’s J.M. Weatherwax High School, a historic building built in 1909, was destroyed by a fire. The Weatherwax family long contributed to the Grays Harbor Community as philanthropists and civic leaders epitomizing humility, hard work, and generosity. The loss of the building generated community interest in creating a new physical acknowledgment to the Weatherwax family.
Architectural sandstone blocks previously installed on the high school building’s facade were salvaged for re-use in the effort to recognize anew these ordinary people who did extraordinary things, and to inspire others to do the same.
A reminder of the Weatherwax legacy, the stones also serve as a symbol of strength and survival, rising from the ashes, and resilience: qualities that Aberdeen residents see within themselves. Some of the stones are permanently displayed in the new high school building which opened in 2007, while others were artistically re-used with interpretation in this public artwork opportunity.
In conjunction with this public art piece, the Grays Harbor Community Foundation partnered with the Polson Museum to preserve the personal affects and legacy of the Weatherwax Family. John Larson, Director of the Polson Museum, with the help of his staff, has put together an incredible exhibit honoring the life and work of Ben K. Weatherwax. The exhibit opening coincided with the Public dedication of “Breaker”. This long term exhibit (open until March of 2014) will honor the community pride, community spirit, strong work ethic, and generosity of this pioneer family that helped shape and cultivate Grays Harbor.
Here is a timeline of the “Breaker” Project from conception to finished product:
• In 2009, Patrick Farwell of the Aberdeen Arts Commission and Tom Quigg met with Tom Laufman who told them about the salvaged Weatherwax stones the School District had saved from the old building. They made an informal deal to keep the stones with the intention they be used in a way that could be enjoyed by the public.
• September 2010: First presented to the Community Foundation Board, the idea of funding an art piece as a tribute to the Weatherwax family, they were supportive
• In November 2010, the GHCF clarified the project was a collaboration between GHCF, City of Aberdeen, Aberdeen Arts Commission and the Aberdeen School District
• It was decided to pursue hiring a consultant to start the process in November 2010
• Project was presented to the Aberdeen City Council on November 23rd, 2010 and approved
• 4Culture was hired as a consultant May 5th, 2011
• August 8, 2011 the Arts Commission selected the Simpson Triangle as the site for the Art Project
• August 10, 2011 the Arts Council met with 4Culture Consultants to define artist selection process
• In January 2012 the GHCF approved an official “Call for Artists”
• The Selection committee met in March 2012 to narrow down the finalists to 3
• In June 2012 the Selection Committee reviewed the 3 artist proposals, and recommended artist Adam Kuby, of Portland, OR for the contract
• In March 2013 Adam began construction on the project, with assistance from the City of Aberdeen and Gerry Mertyl Landscaping
• In May 2013 Adam met with local art students to explain the process and allow them to ask questions about the piece
• The project was completed early June 2013, dedicated Saturday June 8th at 11:00 a.m. to the citizens of Aberdeen and greater Grays Harbor area by Mayor Bill Simpson.
(Please click on an image to see it in full-size.)