by Derek Langhorn
Perhaps the most recognizable sculpture at Whatcom Community College is the “Levitating Sphere” outside of Kulshan Hall. It is a 3,000 pound sphere that was crafted out of a giant boulder which sat in the center of Donovan Avenue in Fairhaven. The boulder, Donovan rock, was detonated in March 1966 to make way for Interstate 5, and the remnants were used to create the levitating sphere.
The sphere sits atop a 7,000 pound base rock, and water is pumped into the base cup through a small hole, causing the ball to rise. The water supporting the ball is the thickness of a human hair, Nate Langstraat, vice president for administrative services at Whatcom said during tour of Whatcom’s sculptures. Although it makes the sphere appear as if it is floating, it is really being lifted by the constant flow of water.
The “Levitating Sphere” was constructed in 2003 by Seattle Solstice, a company that specializes in crafting and shaping stone. This project was spearheaded by Harold Heiner, Whatcom’s former president.
Langstraat quoted Heiner when he said, “‘Levitating Sphere’ is a reminder that our planet earth is a complicated, ever-changing place of renewal and rebirth.”
On the front wall of Kulshan Hall is a sculpture created by David Govedare, a Washington sculptor who mainly focuses on Native American-themed art. Bill Sargent, a local glass blower in Bellingham helped Govedare with the glass work on the piece, creating a galaxy-shaped sculpture with totem inlays. The piece was made in 2004 and is called called “Cosmic Totem.” Govedare’s inspiration for the piece was the creation and birth of the universe. He wanted to make a piece that honored the spiritual presence of all people and life, Langstraat said.
In front of Heiner Hall sits “The Gathering,” a trio of metal sculptures above a small pool that was created by Gerard Tsutakawa in 1998. Tsutakawa has been commissioned to create many sculptures for the city of Seattle, including “Urban Peace Circle,” a piece commissioned by the Stop The Violence Committee in 1994. Tsutakawa made “The Gathering” to be a symbolic representation of a pod of orcas and an interactive experience with the college community, Langstraat said.
On the corner of West Kellogg Road and Cordata Parkway sits “Noisy Water,” a Japanese garden with a waterfall and pond. The word Whatcom is derived from the Lummi word Xwot’qom, which means noisy water.
“Parliament of Owls,” a limestone structure of three owls sitting on a perch in front of Laidlaw Center, was crafted by Tony Angell in 1997. Angell is an artist who mainly creates bird sculptures. He once found an abandoned baby owl and nursed it back to health, Langstraat said. One of his most recognizable pieces is “Emissaries,” a sculpture of two ravens that sits at the entrance to the Mt. Baker Ski Area.
Olivine rock is used as landscaping on many areas of Whatcom’s campus, and the sculpture “Signature Rock” that sits in front of Kelly Hall is one example. Olivine makes up a major part of the earth’s mantle, but is rarely seen above the surface. An exception is the Twin Sisters Mountains in Whatcom County which is mostly composed of the rock.
Near Roe Studio and Orca field stands a structure which officially has no name, but is sometimes referred to as the “Cobb Wall” by Rob Beishline, an art teacher at Whatcom who helped build the structure. It is made out of cobb, a building material made of clay, sand, water, straw and earth, and Beishline said creating it was “a group effort.”
Photos by Andrew Edwards and Derek Langhorn