Look out! A bear is coming to Maple Valley

The City Council approved to have a sculpture of a bruin placed at the roundabout at the east entrance of Tahoma High School.

Students, and construction and bears, oh my!

The Maple Valley City Council approved the proposition from the Maple Valley Arts Commission to put a bear sculpture at the new roundabout in front of the east entrance to Tahoma High School, which is also near the future site of Summit Park.

The council voted unanimously for the statue, according to Maple Valley Mayor Sean Kelly.

Although it was an easy decision for the council members to make, making the idea come to life was a little harder, Mary Jane Glaser, Tahoma School Board president, said.

It started a while ago when Glaser said she and others wanted to do an art project that would go on the school’s property. They decided they wanted a bear sculpture of some sort.

To put this into context on timing, this discussion was happening before they even knew a roundabout was getting put in.

Glaser said to complete this art project a committee formed of students, parents and teachers at the time decided to speak with the Washington State Arts Commission.

“The Washington State Arts Commission has a program when schools or school districts have construction projects, it’s one half of one percent of the construction project can be indicated for a commissioned art project for that project. So it’s not a guarantee, it depends on what the Washington State Arts Commission has in its budget, but that is the starting point,” Glaser explained.

But that’s when trouble struck.

“When we were going through that process, it was disappointing to some of us, especially this one parent and community member, Byron Mucke, that the project could not be mascot related. So we couldn’t have anything resembling a bear, which is of course, the mascot,” Glaser said.

Glaser said Mucke really wanted there to be a bear mascot at the high school, so he did more research to try and make this happen.

At this point, Glaser thought the seniors at the school during this time could take over the project, but they had already decided on putting a wooden bear in the commons are of the high school.

“Byron did some research and came up with examples of bear sculptures by a sculptor named Dan Ostermille. So he showed them to me and thought that it would be great if we could communicate with this sculptor and see what it would take to get a sculpture from him., Glaser said. “So I actually phoned him (Ostermille) and had a very nice conversation with him and realized — and he emailed the various slides to me — for this one particular sculpture, he does a ‘lost wax’ process and from the sculpture he takes molds and actually had six potential molds for this one sculpture.”

Since there were limited molds, Glaser said the problem was trying to get a mold before other organizations or people did.

Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right and Glaser said she was unable to get people on board for a fundraiser to get the bear statue.

That’s when Glaser said she kind of dropped the idea for the time being.

Recently, Glaser found out the city was putting the roundabout at the east entrance of the school and thought the timing was right to talk about getting the bear sculpture made.

“I thought, ‘Gosh, that could be quite a wonderful addition to the roundabout.’ That’s when I resurrected the idea for going forward with this and contacted the artist again and asked him if he still had a mold left and he did. He had one left,” Glaser said. “Originally, I asked if because we were a school district, we could have a discount and he gave us a considerable discount.”

According to Kelly, the original amount for the sculpture was $69,000, but Ostermille lowered it to $40,000.

Kelly said the money to pay for this is coming from the Arts Commission’s discretionary fund, which has more than $100,000 in it.

Even though the city is paying for it now, Ostermille still honored his discount, Glaser said.

Glaser and Kelly both said the bear should be placed at the roundabout in either mid-December or January.

Council member Linda Johnson proposed there be lights put around the bear as well, which was agreed on by the council.

“There will be lights on the bear so that it’s illuminated at night. That’s being worked on right now,” Kelly said.

When the time comes to place the bear, Glaser said the artist will come to Maple Valley to help do that. Ostermille is based in Loveland, Colorado.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting landmark. It will just become part of our culture that this bear is part of our city as well as the school districts. I think that it will be embraced and I was so appreciative of not only the Public Arts Commission recommending this to the city council (but also witnessing) the positive reception by the council,” Glaser said.