Wishing whale fundraiser kicks off Nov. 2

Members of Langley Arts Fund know how to make a splash.

The group commissioned noted South Whidbey artist Georgie Gerber to create a 12-foot, bronze “wishing whale” that will soon greet visitors at Seawall Park.

The entire project will cost about $120,000, Councilman Peter Morton said, but donations “quietly” received so far have already put a very healthy dent in the fundraising goal. To continue the tide of support, the nonprofit citizen group has put together a kickoff event, a wishing whale naming contest, a founding donor campaign and a “funding can” project.

Everyone is invited to migrate to the Langley Whale Center at 5 p.m., Saturday Nov. 2 for the official beginning of the fundraising campaign. It coincides with the monthly art walk downtown and Mayor Tim Callison is expected to wear a white tuxedo and a whale hat. Photos are allowed.

A giant sculpture of a gray whale was the natural choice for the Village by the Sea and home of the Langley Whale Center.

“There’s a very strong feeling about the gray whale and their relationship to the community,” group member Don Wodjenski said, “and we felt it would be the ultimate homage.”

The wishing whale will be installed next to the whale bell that rings out when someone spots one of the behemoths visiting the area to feast on the ghost shrimp in the sand. The piece will welcome sea folks and landlubbers alike at the gateway to the seaside park, where it will serve as a connection between the city and the sea.

For Gerber, the whale was a “marathon piece” and one of the largest sculptures she’s ever made. Like her signature piece at Pikes Place Market, Rachel the Pig, it will be a piggy bank — minus the pig. The whale’s two blowholes will be slots where people can deposit coins; the money raised will go toward maintaining or improving the park, Morton explained.

Gerber said designing the whale had its challenges. She wanted it to be an accurate anatomical representation of the gray-colored cetacean — especially since people will be scrutinizing it for decades — but without being clinical.

She did a lot of research.

“I was eating, sleeping, thinking, everything whale for months,” said Gerber, who found a way to instill “a sense of life” and playfulness to the piece.

“The hallmark of her work is the bridge between nature and artistic expression,” her husband Randy Hudson said.

She started with a 12-inch clay model. A company in Oregon scaled it up to a six-foot foam version, which she then perfected and added finer detail. That in turn will be blown up to 12-feet long and cast in bronze in sections.

The group hopes to reveal the completed whale of fortune at the April 2020 Whale Day Parade.

In the meantime, there’s work to do. The purpose of the Langley Arts Fund, the members said, is to encourage support for public art while improving Seawall Park, which is nearly one acre of undeveloped waterfront and chuck full of potential.

People who become a founding donor by contributing $5,000 or more will get a plaque installed in their name. It’s easy to donate online at langeyartsfund.org. Children will be decorating wishing whale donation cans to be strategically placed around town. The naming contest runs until Jan. 31 and entry forms are available at the Whale Center.

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