Photo by Ann McCreary

Perri Howard, left, and Craig Howard, right, visited the site of Twisp’s north “gateway” with Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody and Public Works Director Andrew Denham.

Part of overall plan to promote town’s economic vitality

Twisp officials are launching the first projects aimed at improving the town’s appearance and economy as part of an economic revitalization plan adopted by the town last year.

Two projects are underway. One involves creation of prominent art installations at either end of town, to create eye-catching gateways into the community. The other is a downtown “illumination project” that will install decorative light fixtures along Glover Street.

The public art installations and improved lighting were among about 20 projects outlined in the Twisp Economic Revitalization Master Plan, adopted by the Twisp Town Council last summer.

Twisp partnered with Methow Arts Alliance to seek bids for the gateway art project earlier this summer. Artists or teams of artists were invited to submit proposals for outdoor public artwork to be installed at the north and south edges of town limits to “serve as a welcome into Twisp at both locations,” according to the request for proposals.

The artwork is to be installed both sides of Highway 20 at each location, and the design is intended to “consider the unique character of the town, its natural surroundings and sense of community.”

The town received 10 proposals, and recently announced selection of the submission by Perri Howard and Craig Howard, who live in the Methow Valley. The artist proposals were evaluated by the town’s economic revitalization committee, comprised of town officials and community members, and some additional business owners.

The committee narrowed the field to three proposals and then interviewed those artists, said Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody. “All have some local connection to Twisp. I feel that speaks to the quality of art and understanding of community that our local artists have,” Ing-Moody said.

The Howards presented two concepts for the gateway art. One is called “Outstanding in Nature,” and is made of many upright metal poles of different heights. “Outstanding in Nature is a reflection of our place in this valley,” the artists said in their proposal. “At once like aspen groves, where we are all connected at the root level, and then like the outline of the mountainscape that is always before us.”

The other concept, called “Mountain Home,” would be made of perforated, laser cut steel plates set parallel to each other, creating an effect of mountain ranges. “Mountain Home is a greeting hint, a tease of the dramatic landscape for which Twisp is the guardian. As one enters Twisp then turns north, the mountains beckon. Mountain Home cements our place as the gateway to the Methow Valley, welcoming all to this destination,” the artists said.

Photos courtesy of Craig Howard

Models illustrate the concepts behind art installations proposed by Perri and Craig Howard for Twisp’s “gateway project,” part of the town’s economic revitalization plan. (Cows and cowboys are not part of the project.)

“Mountain Home,” one of the concepts proposed by Craig and Perri Howard.

Conceptual proposals

The art installations are three-dimensional. “Unlike a sign, they change through one’s approach and passing,” the artists said. The sculptures would be 12-14 feet high, 14-16 feet long and 6-12 feet in depth. Both could be lit at night.

The proposals are conceptual and will be further developed after evaluating the sites and the installation requirements, and after receiving public input. On Monday (Aug. 27) the artists visited the gateway sites with the mayor and Public Works Director Andrew Denham. The south entrance is near the Okanogan Public Utility District substation, and the north entrance is on county land, just past the bridge beyond the Idle-A-While Motel.

Ing-Moody said the town plans to give the community opportunities to review and provide input on the proposed gateway art. “Perri and Craig Howard will present their proposal to the public in an upcoming meeting. That will be an opportunity for public input to better guide [them] in finalizing elements of their proposal,” Ing-Moody said.

“This is not a project only for tourists. This is a project for locals,” Ing-Moody said. As one element of the town’s economic revitalization plan, it is part of an overall effort to support local businesses. “The function of it is a welcome to Twisp,” she said. “This was a very purposeful infrastructure request that … must speak to a broad range of people.”

Perri Howard has a studio called Velocity Made Good on the TwispWorks campus. “My artistic expression has, since the beginning, involved the relationship between human perception and sense of place,” Howard said.

Her art incorporates sound, sculpture and immersive environments, she said. She has completed many public art projects, including sculptures and installations in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Boise, Idaho, and in India as a Fulbright Scholar.

Craig Howard had an art studio in Seattle for 10 years before moving to the Methow Valley. He designed and built custom furniture, as well as logos and signs, working primarily in metal.  Since moving to the Methow Valley he has worked in art design and fabrication.

Craig Howard also works as a consultant for nonprofit organizations, providing strategic planning, conflict resolution and community work.

“This is important in this [gateway project] process, in that we are going to be working a lot with community in learning their interests and hopes … ultimately delivering art that speaks to and about the community for decades to come,” he said.

Downtown illumination

The second project undertaken as part of Twisp’s revitalization initiative will install new decorative, solar-powered streetlights along Glover Street. A dozen industrial-style street lights on Twisp’s main downtown street will be replaced by 26 new fixtures that have a “shepherd’s hook” design.

A small solar panel at the top of each pole powers the light, attached to a curved metal arm extending from the pole over the street. The lights are dark-sky compliant, meaning they shine light downward and not up toward the sky. “It will be an enhancement of lighting and appearance,” said Denham.

Both the gateway and illumination projects are funded through a $250,000 federal grant called “Complete Streets,” which is administered by the state Transportation Improvement Board. The budget provides $60,000 for the gateway art project and $110,000 for the lighting, with the remaining $80,000 in funding for installation of both projects. The projects are expected to be installed next spring, Denham said. 

Twisp’s revitalization plan was developed by SCJ Alliance, an urban planning firm, through a $50,000 grant awarded to Twisp in 2015 from the state Department of Commerce. The 79-page plan proposes about 20 projects, with a total price tag of almost $10 million, designed to make Twisp’s downtown more attractive and conducive to business. It was developed with community input gathered through surveys and public meetings over a two-year period.

The projects range from comparatively low-cost and easily accomplished projects to major infrastructure improvements, such as reconfiguring the intersection at Highway 20 and Glover Street.

The town and its revitalization committee has prioritized projects that can be accomplished through grant funding and partnerships with other organizations, like the collaboration on the gateway project with Methow Arts, Ing-Moody said.

The adoption and implementation of an economic revitalization plan won Twisp a “Smart Communities Award” this year from the state Department of Commerce. Twisp was recognized for its “innovative and impressive” approach to revitalizing the town’s economy. The award was scheduled to be presented during the Twisp Council meeting on Tuesday (Aug. 28).