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Artist unveils alternatives for downtown sculpture

Hazelnut proposal will likely be traded for blooming bulb


by: COURTESY OF BRIAN BORELLO - The City Center Advisory Commission is expected to recommend the Tigard City Council build this sculpture of interlocking leaves at the corner of Main Street and Pacific Highway. The statue is an alternative after initial plans called for a 14-foot-tall hazelnut to be built at the location.The Portland artist hired to build two large public art pieces in downtown Tigard has brought a few new ideas to the table, after the City Council turned down a previous idea earlier this year.

Brian Borrello submitted three alternatives to the City Center Advisory Committee on Thursday, but it was a design for a bud of interlocking leaves that drew the most attention.

“One of the things that stuck out was this idea of nature and Fanno Creek — bringing it up and celebrating it,” he said. “That is something that we have tried to do with these options.”

Other alternatives included an updated take on Borrello’s previous concept — a set of filbert seeds — as well as a two-story-tall Camas flower. But committee members said they were drawn to the petals, saying it would stand out in the busy intersections of Pacific Highway.

“It made me feel like if I’d never been to Main Street, I might want to turn down and see what’s down there,” said committee member Sherrie Devaney.

The plan is to build two sculptures, one at each end of Main Street and Pacific Highway.

The petals, which would be 16 feet tall, are meant to signify the downtown’s growth.

“It’s a synthesis of the ideas that I’ve generated,” he said. “It’s a bud unfolding, and it represents the potential of life, as in a bulb. It has this potential of opening and unfurling.”

'I am doing my best work'

Earlier this year, Borrello went back to the drawing board after the City Council rejected plans to build two 14-foot-tall filbert nuts at each end of Main Street. The filberts would pulse with a reddish glow at night.

While the design received strong support from the City Center Advisory Committee — a citizen-led group, which makes recommendations to the City Council on matters relating to downtown revitalization — the idea failed to gain traction with the community at large, including members of the City Council, who worried the hazelnut sculptures weren’t indicative of the area’s history and that the design was too similar to male genitalia.

Borrello said he was not expecting the kind of reaction the initial design received.

“Nobody was more surprised than me,” he said. “I mostly felt like there was a perception problem.

"They didn’t want to be the butt of jokes, and that is disappointing. We had to manage our expectations, and the press put it out there, and it happens. Things get controversial. I’m not going to get, nor do I expect, 100 percent buy-in from all of Tigard. But I feel like I am doing my best work here and doing something that can be branding an identity. It’s something elegant, something idiosyncratic, something adventurous.”

Devaney, who grew up on a filbert orchard, said while she still preferred the original design, this new petal design would be the most likely to gain approval by the council.

“It would be difficult to not like one that he designed,” she said. “During all four seasons, the color shades he picked could pop out. It needs to call your attention.”

by: COURTESY OF BRIAN BORELLO - The statues will be built at each end of Main Street along with a sign to welcome people to downtown Tigard.

Controversy follows public art

Paid for through the city’s urban renewal fund, the sculptures are meant to be the first of several art projects completed in the next several years.

The initial budget for the sculptures was $60,000 for two sculptures to bookend the city’s downtown core. But Borrello’s alternate designs will be more expensive than the initial plans called for.

The petal sculptures would cost about $74,000 to build, Borrello estimates. Building only one sculpture would cost $37,000.

Borrello’s two other alternatives were no cheaper. A plan for a two-story-tall Camas flower would cost $67,000, and a revised filbert sculpture with three nuts instead of two would cost $79,000.

Art consultant Valerie Otani told the commission on Thursday that no matter which design is chosen, controversy and criticism are likely.

“It will be controversial in one way or another,” Otani said. “That’s the nature of putting something out in the public space.”

Otani said people will always find things to complain about, but complimented the committee for its nearly two-year-long work to bring public art into downtown.

“Not everyone will look at that and say, ‘That represents me.’ Some people will respond positively, and others will have reservations,” she said.

But given time, the public will come to appreciate the work, Otani said.

Editor's Note: This story originally misspelled Brian Borrello's last name. The Times regrets the error.



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