Update on West Seattle’s stolen totem pole: No fast re-install

That totem pole is back in its place outside the Redmond Library, where a Seattle company called Artech reinstalled it – along with another large work of native-inspired carved-wood art – on Tuesday. We were there that day to talk with Artech, after the Seattle Parks Department told us the company had expressed potential interest in doing some work on the West Seattle Rotary Viewpoint Park totem pole before it’s put back in place. First, a recap of where the stolen-then-found totem pole saga stands: Still awaiting word of charges against the suspect, a 69-year-old West Seattle man arrested eight days ago. The pole, found in Oregon a week ago after, police say, he told them where to find it, remains at a Seattle Parks facility (as we showed you Monday):

The pole found with it in Oregon has been identified as one stolen from outside the Renton Fred Meyer (as we reported Tuesday). Now the question is how long till the West Seattle pole can be returned to its home at the viewpoint alongside 35th at Alaska. The Rotary Club of West Seattle, which donated the park and the pole – carved by Native American artist Robin Young – in 1976, is taking a major role in sorting that all out, and has created a task force that will start meeting after the holidays, while raising money now for restoration/reinstallation. The Parks Department says it’s connecting Artech with the Rotarians. We got in touch with Artech to find out more about their interest, and what they’re all about – read on:

Our inquiry to Artech was answered by senior account manager Denise Bisio: “Artech has been providing art handling services to public, private and corporate collectors as well as museums and galleries for over 30 years. We saw the article [about the West Seattle totem-pole theft] and thought we would extend our expertise as well as provide a means to better secure the piece if possible. That said, we need to see what is involved before offering our services at no charge although we would like to donate labor (some, all, depends) to help the cause so to speak. It is always rewarding for us to work with public collections. The community involvement is inspiring.”

Bisio mentioned in our first e-mail exchange that Artech was about to reinstall a totem pole and companion work at the Redmond branch of King County Library System, for which the company’s been doing “maintenance and art handling” since 2005, along with other work, including high-profile jobs such as installing most of the pieces at Olympic Sculpture Park.

In a steady downpour, we met her and the Artech crew at the site Tuesday afternoon.

The Redmond totem pole, a 12-foot, 16-year-old work by Dean Frederickson, needed repairs as well as treatment. Bisio explained, “We repaired the damaged area caused by a woodpecker, removed the fungus and treated it with an oil coating to deter birds. We also had a mount fabricated and new concrete base so it could be elevated off of the ground. When wood is in direct contact w/the ground or even a base it acts as a wick, absorbing water and moisture.” (The woodpecker, by the way, had apparently pecked out one of the totem’s “eyes”!)

When we arrived at the library, the Artech crew had already installed the totem pole and were working on the other piece, an 8-foot 1974 creation by Dudley Carter.

We asked project manager Roger Waterhouse to show us some of what they had done:

Bisio says the fact the West Seattle pole is currently “de-installed” makes this potentially an optimal time to see if it needs restoration/preservation work to protect it from bugs and fungus, and they also would want to see if the theft caused any damage. Woodhouse noted that the type of work that might be needed to protect something of that type could include a “cap” to reduce the amount of rain seeping in to lead to interior rot.

Whether they ultimately wind up involved with the West Seattle work or not depends in large part what happens with the Rotary’s new Task Force, which plans to meet before the club’s January 5th meeting, and to confer with Parks after that. (When we met them in Redmond, by the way, it was just a few hours after we had gotten and shared the news about the stolen Renton pole’s ID, and Artech’s Bisio expressed interest in finding out more about that.)

WHAT’S NEXT: We’re continuing to watch for charges in the theft case; we also have a followup in the works with some news about the West Seattle pole’s carver, Robin Young.

6 Replies to "Update on West Seattle's stolen totem pole: No fast re-install"

  • Denny December 17, 2009 (6:16 am)

    Thanks for your excellent & continued coverage. There are so many facets to this interesting story. I look forward to charges filed against those responsible so that we can know more.

  • rob December 17, 2009 (9:23 am)

    i am starting to wonder if they haven’t charged him yet because they are working to get him to flip on the bigger fish in this hot totem racket…

  • sophista-tiki December 17, 2009 (10:16 am)

    Thanks for the information about Artceh and their restoration plans. I was hoping that these measures would be taken to protect the pole from furthur deterioration. I did my museum studies internship at the Log House Museum and the pole they have there has gone through the same process. Although the interior damage from bug infestation had made it so that the pole can not be re- erected.

    • WSB December 17, 2009 (10:30 am)

      Sophista, that’s interesting – while I hadn’t confirmed this yet with LHM, the Artech people mentioned having been in touch with them regarding their pole. I’m seeing a “totems of West Seattle” separate feature along the line :) … TR

  • pam December 17, 2009 (7:05 pm)

    I just want to say thanks for your continued coverage of this story. I find it bizarrely fascinating and keep checking back to read the latest chapter. Nice work.

  • steve 1st nation December 18, 2009 (10:46 am)

    Tell us who did it. the stupid jerkface. oh and thanks for the great coverage all my friends are following this with an intensity.

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