Fishy art project a splashing success

Arlington resident Jean Olson, right, talks with Marysville resident Matt Hayen about his recently purchased plywood sturgeon. The sturgeon will be decorated and displayed near Arlington for the city
Arlington resident Jean Olson, right, talks with Marysville resident Matt Hayen about his recently purchased plywood sturgeon. The sturgeon will be decorated and displayed near Arlington for the city's 'Some Things Fishy in Arlington' community art project.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Jean Olson's garage is starting to look like the Stillaguamish River.

That is, if the river's inhabitants were made of plywood.

Residents and organizations have been purchasing wooden salmon, trout, sturgeon and rockfish cutouts for the city's "Some Things Fishy in Arlington" community art project at Olson's home since July.

More than 350 fish, which organizers hope to display near the Interstate 5 corridor and throughout the city starting in October, were purchased for the project.

The thought behind the project is to encourage attendees of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C., to visit Arlington.

"We want to see visitors from all over the world stop in town for lunch and a walk about," Arlington recreation manager Sarah Hegge said.

The fish ranged from four to eight feet long, and residents could choose from four-foot-long fish and eight-footers, at $5 and $10 respectively.

Residents were encouraged to then paint or design their fish however they want. The plywood fish are cut by resident Terry Marsh.

On Sept. 16 — three days before the Sept. 19 cutoff to buy the fish — Marysville resident Matt Hayen drove over to pick up an eight foot sturgeon from Olson.

"I was flipping through the Arlington Community Guide and it I thought the project was kind of neat," Hayen said as he loaded the plywood fish in his truck.

He said he told his 7- and 13-year-olds about the project and they were interested in helping.

The fish are returned to Olson once they are completed.

Although many are painted in traditional reds and grays, others shimmer with reflective orange and silver paint.

One submission stands out, Olson said.

Bill Blake, city of Arlington's natural resource manager, attached a flexible hinge so that the fish's tail can "swim" back and forth in the wind.

A painted eagle was also attached to the fish, and other animals, including a beaver and a frog were painted onto the salmon.

"I just thought it would be cool to have some movement out there that would be eye-catching," Blake said. "The eagle was to show the relationship between the salmon and the eagle — it's symbolic of what happens in nature."

Since organizers began advertising the project this summer, the community has responded in force.

It's almost been too much for Olson, who has been bombarded with requests for the fish from community members.

"I don't think anybody expect it to be this big," Olson said. "We were hoping to sell 104 — that would be one more than (in 2003) when they were selling cows."

That city project asked residents to purchase plywood cows and place them throughout Arlington.

Painted fish must be delivered by installation day, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 24 at 20400 Smokey Point Blvd.

Organizers are also recruiting volunteers to help bolt the fish to stakes and fence posts.

The colored fish will be on display in March.

"It's been really interesting to see how excited people are," Olson said. "I've had people thanks me for giving them this opportunity to paint the fish. It's caught on really big."

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