On the rolling hills in Peace Arch State Park, two orca fins made of driftwood crest the grassy waves. Nearby, a pair of large mirrored eyeglasses, floating above a disembodied nose, keep a watchful eye from behind some hedges, and close to the highway, a glinting sculpture made entirely out of pennies greets northbound drivers with a picture of Abe Lincoln and southbound drivers with a likeness of Queen Elizabeth.
These unusual sights are part of the 16th annual Peace Arch Park International Sculpture Exhibition, which is on display from May 1 to October 1. Each year, the United States Canada Peace Anniversary Association (USCPAA) sponsors the event, which attracts artists from all over the world.
Since its launch in 1997, the annual event has attracted 125 artists from around the globe, producing 171 unique works of art.
Eight exhibits are on display this year, with artists hailing from the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Until last year, the International Sculpture Exhibition was funded through city grants, made possible by the tax revenue generated by the Semiahmoo Resort. When that establishment closed in December 2012, the exhibition lost much of its funding. “Our board had enough money to get the art in and start our insurance for the season,” said Christina Alexander, USCPAA founder. “But in order to continue with our project, we’re going to need some public support.”
The USCPAA has had to downsize the exhibit over the last few years to reduce costs. Alexander said the project will need a minimum of $10,000 to run an exhibit next year. The organization needs $1,500 in the next few months to renew the exhibit’s insurance, which covers general liability for damage or theft, as required by Washington state law.
“Hopefully we can do better than that, and start to expand the exhibition and bring more art here,” Alexander said.
While she hopes the reopening of Semiahmoo Resort will one day restore the exhibit’s funding, she acknowledges that it may take a while for that to happen. She plans to hold fundraisers in the future to involve the community and local businesses. The USCPAA is also responsible for many of the pieces of art that are displayed in downtown Blaine.
The exhibit, which is open to both professional and amateur artists, doesn’t hold to any specific theme, though many of the artists who contribute choose to emphasize the peace between the U.S. and Canada, Alexander said.
“We’ve had peace-themed work, we’ve had cooperation-themed work, and we’ve just had fun, whimsical work,” Alexander said. “We don’t limit it. We like to leave that to the artist.”
For example, “Kai-Pods,” the driftwood orca sculpture, created by Kevin Curry of Vancouver, carries a message of environmental responsibility. “The Nose Knows,” by Ron Simmer of Burnaby, is meant as a commentary on “the nosiness of business and government in our society,” according to the park’s website.
The latter sculpture almost made the news in a very different way. The piece was originally placed facing south, but had to be repositioned because the sun glinting off the mirrored lenses was threatening to set the bushes on fire. The sculpture now faces north, and has adequate shielding from the sun.
“That was the closest we’ve come to an international incident,” Alexander joked.
The sculptures will be on display in Peace Arch Park until October 1, and the exhibit is free to view. Each of the works on display is available for purchase, with prices ranging from $2,000 to $25,000.