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The Fluke: A Valentine’s Gift to the Town

Lori Stokes and Mayor Carrie Lacher
Lori Stokes and Mayor Carrie Lacher

On Valentine’s Day, a small crowd gathered to dedicate ‘The Fluke’, the Town of Friday Harbor’s first public art piece, a polished aluminum whale tail sculpture weighing 180 pounds. This life-size statue measuring 12 feet across and 4 feet high, is installed on the corner of A and First street, a couple of blocks from the Inn, boldly welcoming visitors to our Town. The tail points to the Whale museum providing serendipitous wayfinding to the museum a few blocks away.

This community collaboration was the inspiration of local resident Lori Stokes.  “The Fluke represents one of the most exciting facets of this beautiful place,” says Stokes. “The whales are an iconic image to our community. The Fluke is in a particularly compelling place that can be enjoyed by people who live here and those that visit.”

Lori wanted to ensure that this sculpture that had been displayed most recently in Roche Harbor (San Juan Island) would stay in our community and not be sold to a mainland township.  Sculpture Micajah Bienvenu was also anxious to keep this sculpture in his home town, so he lowered the purchase price to ensure that the town would be able to purchase it. Ms. Stokes raised $25,000 from 31 private donors.

Michajah Bienvenu is a prominent Pacific Northwest sculptor. His art can be seen in many communities in Washington including Bellevue, Kirkland, Walla Walla and San Juan Island. His sculpture, Dancing Fool, stands in the gardens outside the San Juan Community Theater.

During the dedication ceremony, a light rain fell. Droplets of water pooled on the tail’s edges as if the fluke had just popped out of the water. Speeches described The Fluke as simple but complex, graceful yet powerful and playful but still. The value of public art is immeasurable to a community. Public art not only helps create a sense of place, but this particular sculpture is an example of how you create a sense of space. Mayor Carrie Lacher is proud of this permanent fixture to our downtown core. “We have this world class sculpture that celebrates the natural aspects that we enjoy on San Jan Island.”

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