City Council commissions new $3,000 public art piece

December 3, 2013

By Peter Clark

Steel swallows will soon land on the corner of Northwest Sammamish Road and 17th Avenue Northwest.

The Issaquah City Council approved spending $3,833 on a new public art piece Nov. 18. The piece, by local artist Ed McCarthy, is a 14-foot, 220-pound recycled steel sculpture with a circling flock of swallows flying to the top.

McCarthy named it “Wing on Wing” and the piece will sit on a small triangle of green space in the heavily trafficked intersection. The purchase was funded with the 2013 Municipal Arts Fund budget, which includes $10,000 for public art.

City Arts Coordinator Amy Dukes said the Arts Commission put out a request for artist proposals at the beginning of the year to find new public works. She said the commission responded strongly to “Wing on Wing.”

“That one was on the top of the list,” Dukes said. “We got a lot of responses and this one really rose to the top.”

Dukes said the commission scouted many locations and thought the busy corner near the Interstate 90 onramp would make a good spot.

“It will be nice for all the people who wait in traffic,” she said. “And it’s also a nice gateway to the Lake Sammamish State Park.”

Dukes said the city has not purchased any new public art in a few years.

McCarthy, who lives on Cougar Mountain, was thrilled the commission chose his piece.

“When I saw the request for proposals, I thought, ‘I’m a local boy. I’m going to submit,’” he said. “I sent in the photos, and with a thick skin I prepared for rejection. The city art council has been enthusiastic about the piece, which has made me feel good. In fact, it feels great knowing that someone has had a positive experience by looking at something I made.”

A former sculpture from the Renton Technical College inspired “Wing on Wing” and McCarthy wanted to give it a new interpretation.

“I’ve always been captivated by nature and by swallows,” he said. “I wanted to tie the piece to local culture and to nature. I had the idea of building a contemporary totem of sort. I use the swallows in the piece to reveal that nature ultimately dominates, if not by inhabiting a disregarded structure.”

McCarthy works as a hydrologist and credited his time as an engineer with forwarding his creativity. Though he has long worked on art projects, he said he has focused on it more in the past few years.

“I apply an engineer’s precision and logic to my artistic sense of dimension and scale to create sculpture that accentuates the beauty of material and negative space,” he said, describing his work.

McCarthy has exhibited pieces around the region, has a few public sculptures on display and is currently working with the Issaquah School District to place another.

Maintenance for the work should be very minimal since it is constructed of steel and treated for outdoors.

“We hope to have weather that cooperates and install it in early December,” Dukes said.

“Wing on Wing” will be the only public art purchase for 2013, leaving a balance in the Municipal Arts Fund budget of $6,167.

Learn more about McCarthy’s work at


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One Response to “City Council commissions new $3,000 public art piece”

  1. Issaquah Monorail on December 10th, 2013 6:17 am

    This is a great looking piece and for $3,800 it’s a steal. Look forward to seeing it installed.

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