Local artist Abe Singer presents concept design to transform water tank at the Grass Lake Nature Park


The Olympia Arts Commission approved and accepted the design concept for the Grass Lake Nature Park public art project and recommended it to the city council for consideration.

At the April 11 meeting, local artist Abe Singer presented his plans for the project that involves repurposing an old 10-foot diameter steel water tank into sculptural elements:

  • Two entry sculptures marking the park entrances on Harrison Avenue and Kaiser Road. Singer's design for these features curved, flowing forms inspired by the cylindrical geometry of the tank.

Singer said the entry sculptures are approximately 8-foot tall and 7-foot wide. Materials will primarily be mild steel reclaimed from the tank, with mild steel for support and bracing. He would use specific welding methods and materials to join the metal components of the sculptures structurally and decoratively.

  • A bird blind structure. Singer's concept envisions an S-curve panel cut from the tank, allowing visitors to view wildlife from openings at different heights. Proposed designs, such as a mushroom, fern fiddlehead, and dragonfly wings, are within the curved scene.

That would be constructed from two 6-foot-long half-round sections cut from the tank body and welded to form an S-curve panel structure. The blind bird structure would be connected to the boardwalk with mounting brackets welded to the back.

Proposed design for the bird blind.
Proposed design for the bird blind.

"I want to showcase the existing curvature of the tank and take advantage of the large industrial machine tools it took to press the end caps into their dome-shaped and roll the sides of the tank round," Singer said.

Singer said he incorporated feedback from community members, including Thurgood Marshall Middle School Citizen Science Institute students involved in park restoration efforts when developing the designs. The concept includes natural themes of regeneration and recycling.

"The students were passionate and invested and had a strong knowledge of the park and its diverse ecosystem. They focused on restoration, watershed improvement, tree planting, preserving and fostering wildlife," Singer commented.

Singer acknowledged there would be some safety code compliance challenges to address. He mentioned that the tips of the depicted fern fiddleheads could not be tapered to fine points, as shown in the drawing, due to safety codes preventing finger entrapment hazards.

The large mushroom stem may exceed the maximum allowable protrusion of 3 3/4 inches as specified by codes regarding head entrapment risks.

Singer added that a certified playground inspector would review his desisssgns and provide feedback on safety compliance issues or hazards.

When the Arts Commission opened the public hearing, community member Teresa Martinelli commented on the project plan and concept design. She said it would be good to bring back more life and greenery to the area.

Arts Commission Chair Kathy Dorgan said she was fascinated at the intersection of art and science/engineering required for a project like this.

Dorgan added she was impressed by the amount of work and knowledge Singer demonstrated – from incorporating community feedback to considering safety and structural requirements to selecting specialized welding techniques.

If the city council approves the recommendation, the project will move forward. Singer will work for the rest of the year to transform the tank, which has a budget of $32,000, through welding and other fabrication techniques into new site-specific sculptures for the park.

The deadlines include installing the bird-blind sculpture by September 2024 and the two-entryway markers by November 2024.

The Olympia Arts Commission opened the public hearing for the Grass Lake Nature Park public art project on April 11, 2024.
The Olympia Arts Commission opened the public hearing for the Grass Lake Nature Park public art project on April 11, 2024.


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