"Hail, king of the salmonA sculpture outside city hall will raise funds for local causes."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:56 PM
"A salmon big enough to be the one that got away is swimming next to city hall.The Bainbridge salmon is part of Soul Salmon 2001, a school of 200 Puget Sound fish sponsored by groups and individuals to benefit local programs and charities.The eight-foot long fiberglass sculpture, decorated by artist Sally Prangley Rooney and commissioned by Debbie Brainerd, will be dedicated in a ceremony at 12 p.m. Aug. 1 outside the city hall south entrance. When the truck delivering the salmon pulled up to my studio in May, it looked like someone had caught the biggest fish in the world, Rooney said. Now it looks like something out of a story book - it just brings a smile to my face. Rooney's Salmon a la King, which arrived as a plain fiberglass sculpture, now features such over-the-top additions as a royal red cape and a blue, gem-encrusted crown.I love puns, so before the fish even arrived, I knew I had to do a Salmon a la King, Rooney said. But it wasn't just a pun. The salmon really is a regal fish.In order to work on the fish, which is set on a pole sunk in concrete, Rooney had to drill a hole in her hefty studio table. Then she built a steel armature around the salmon to hold the fiberglass that would become the fish's cape and crown. Rooney enlisted the help of Robyn Krutch, who had fiberglassed several pigs for Pike Place Market, to learn the glassing techniques.Despite the use of the light-weight material, the fish and stand weighed in at 400 pounds by the time the artwork was completed.I liked the project because it raised the bar, Rooney said. I was using the materials in ways they hadn't been used before. I was on the phone a lot to the manufacturers, to be sure the construction would be sound. Fish talesThe 200 fish began as cast fiberglass blanks by artist Tom Jay, and each was then commissioned by a business, salmon recovery group, individual or non-profit to be finished by an artist. The goal, organizers say, is to raise both awareness of conservation issues and cash to save salmon.The sponsor of each fish allocates which charity or restoration project the money is targeted toward, while non-profits may redirect the funds to their own use.Like the migration of the Soul Salmon, more than 40 U.S. cities are seeing incursions of large-scale cows, pigs, moose, buffalo and other beasts - art-works destined for the auction block. The Bainbridge salmon will sit outside city hall until November, at which time it will be reunited with the rest of the school for a gala auction at the Bellevue Art Museum.Brainerd and Rooney will split the proceeds between favorite causes.Rooney plans to donate her half to the Wilkes elementary school art program, where she volunteers as art docent. Brainerd's portion will go toward the Puget Sound Environmental Learning Center's salmon restoration efforts on the PSELC grounds.It's exciting for us to participate in a project that brings artists and community together to revitalize wild salmon, Brainerd said, because I think salmon is a totem of sorts here in the Puget Sound region. More information on the program can be found online at www.soulsalmon.org. "