Tag Archives: James Kelsey

Friday Afternoon Club: Speaking of Art in Cities (or Not)

Bear with me while I ramble a bit here.

First things first. It’s Friday. Run, don’t walk, to this week’s featured event, which is under way as we speak. It’s a wine and hors d’oeuvres affair at the Amy Burnette Gallery on 4th Street in Bremerton to celebrate the grand opening of the “Crazy Lady on 4th Street Gallery,” with featured art by Shelly Wilkerson … “think Norman Rockwell meets Mad Magazine,” says the item on the Kitsap Sun’s calendar. You have until 8:30 p.m. Wilkerson’s Gallery is at 296 Fourth St.

Now, there’s considerable irony in the fact that the reception is in Bremerton, according to South Kitsap artist James Kelsey of Southworth. Wilkerson is from South Kitsap, said Kelsey, but alas if it has anything to do with art, it’s probably happening in Bremerton.

Kelsey, a former dyed-in-the-wool optimist, sounded positively cynical and downright despondent when I called him today to ask if he met his goal of fund-raising for a piece of public art in Port Orchard. He hadn’t even hit the halfway mark.

Last month on this blog, I wrote about Kelsey’s efforts to raise $15,000 through an online private fund-raising campaign for a sculpture he proposed to install in a public place in Port Orchard. The money would have covered his materials, including a large stainless steel sphere that cost $6,000 to manufacture. Kelsey, willing to take a gamble on PO’s heart for art, paid for the sphere on his credit card. His plan was to get the statue installed, then mount a campaign to cover his time and other costs.

At the time he launched the fund-raising drive, Bremerton had just approved another statue (that makes about 300 quadrillion so far) paid for with the city’s 1 percent for the arts program.

Port Orchard has no arts funding program, but Kelsey believed private citizens would step up to beautify their fair city. By the deadline of the campaign, he had raised only $4,000. The giant sphere sits in storage. Perhaps he will use it in another piece.

Kelsey is a successful artist with works on Kitsap County properties and in Bremerton (did we need to ask?), as well as in other states and British Columbia. His art fetches a fair price, but producing is is a lengthy and often speculative process. With the recession, Kelsey struggled. In March he lost his home. Some friends bought it and are allowing him to rent until he can buy it back. But in truth, Kelsey is starting to lose spring in his step.

Asked if he’s given up on Port Orchard, Kelsey said. “They’ve given up on me. I keep forgetting I live here because it’s a good place to live, not because it’s an arts community. This is a blue collar, NASCAR town, not an art-centric community.”

Bremerton, in comparison, is bustling with activity, largely as a result of its arts scene, Kelsey said. “You look at Bremerton’s parks, and the art and the fountains they have. It’s becoming a destination, and a lot of that has to do with the arts.”

Ironically, Kelsey said, there are numerous artists living in South Kitsap, but most of their work is displayed and sold elsewhere. In his opinion, support for the arts, including the Historic Orchard Theatre and Western Washington Center for the Performing Arts, comes from a small core group of people, and it’s not enough to support a thriving arts community.

Kelsey, citing a 2009 study on Arts and Economy by the National Governors Association, said Bremerton and Port Orchard respectively will reap what they sow in the realm of investment in the arts.

Since this is a single source blog post, I’d like to open this forum up to comments from those of you who agree or disagree with Kelsey.

What say you, is Port Orchard culturally challenged (take the poll on this blog’s hoome page)? Why do you think efforts to privately fund a public sculpture have failed?

Is Bremerton’s investment in the arts paying off?

I was going to poke fun at Bremerton for poking fun at Port Orchard about our new 7Eleven, but we’re in the middle of a serious discussion here. Guess I’ll just have to save if for a future post.

Reach Kelsey at james@jameskelseystudios.com.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter

More Sculpture Envy

What again?

Bremerton is getting yet another statue, courtesy of its 1 percent for the arts funding. The city sets aside 1 percent of the funding for capital projects — except for utility, street, or block grant work — for art.

On Wednesday, the Bremerton City Council approved spending $7,100 of the fund for a sculpture by Bob Kimball of Poulsbo. The piece called, “With Attitude,” is expected to be complete by the end of January.

The sculpture resembles a treble clef, and was inspired by a conversation the artist had with his 19-year-old daughter. As the parent of a 20-year-old daughter, I totally get that.

Bremerton pretty much has statues and fountains all over the place. The famous — some say infamous — Fish and Fisherman statues at Fourth and Pacific were paid for with a grant, not the 1 percent program. Selections for pieces paid for by the 1 percent for the arts fund are made by Bremerton’s Arts Commission.

Across Sinclair Inlet, Port Orchard continues to look on with sculpture envy. The city has no arts fund. An earlier attempt to raise private funds for a public sculpture failed. But the city will get a second chance.

Southworth sculptor James Kelsey, who was recently voted Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador of the Year, is raising funds for a 10-foot-by-10-foot $15,000 sculpture into which he has already sunk $6,000 on the gamble Port Orchard citizens are willing to pay for a distinctive piece of art.

Kelsey in 2009 offered a similar deal, except at that time his plans were a little larger. The total value of the proposed 15-foot-tall sculpture was $66,000. He sought private pledges for the work, but didn’t meet the goal.

If you want to see examples or Kelsey’s work, you could visit his website, or better yet Bremerton (surprise, surprise), where outside the Bremerton Police station stands a piece, “Tides of Justice,” in his signature style with swooping bands and stainless steel balls.

Port Orchard actually already has a piece of Kelsey’s work. “Siren’s Song” sits atop the walkway to the Kitsap Transit foot ferry on the Port Orchard side.

Kelsey’s latest idea, which he proposes for a yet-unidentified public space in Port Orchard, involves a stainless steel ball 4 feet in diameter. He has already had the ball manufactured, hence the $6,000. If Kelsey doesn’t make his goal of $15,000 for the rest of the materials, his time and ancillary costs, he’ll have one heck of a paperweight. Naw, seriously, he’s likely to recycle it into another piece. Kelsey’s art resides in in public spaces in British Columbia, Tacoma, Issaquah and on Kitsap County property, as well as in private collections.

Anyone who wants to pledge to the sculpture — pledges will not be collected unless the goal is met — can log on to www.kickstarter.com and search for “James Kelsey.” The website allows artists of all disciplines to raise the money needed to create a new project.

The end of Kelsey’s pledge drive is Dec. 3.