SKY SWEEPS REPORT/ABERDEEN CITY COUNCIL
Washington State Arts Commission | Art in Public Places Program
February 5, 2015
Peter and Sue Richards’ monumental sculpture Sky Sweeps was commpleted in 2004. The work is comprised of three painted mild steel components measuring 85 feet tall each. The artwork is located on City of Aberdeen property, next to the highway 101 bridge and the Chehalis River. It was commissioned by the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) in 2002 with funding from the Department of Corrections statewide pooled funds. The work is part of the State Art Collection, a collection of publicly sited artworks located throughout Washington.
On the evening of January 17th or the early hours of the 18th, the central “sweep” broke at its pivot point and fell. Fortunately, the break caused no damage beyond the artwork.
City staff contacted the artists on January 20th, who then alerted ArtsWA, the administrator of the State Art Collection; Fabrication Specialties, Ltd., the company that fabricated and installed the artwork; and Lund Engineering, the artwork’s structural engineer.
Repair Steps to Date
Fabrication Specialties traveled to Aberdeen on January 21st and 22nd to assess damage and remove the fallen part. Their preliminary assessment indicated a material failure (fatigued metal) with timing spurred by higher than normal winds; the National Weather Service recorded gusts of 52 mph in Hoquiam. There was a crack in the mild steel that was covered by a bolting collar and therefore undetected in semi-annual safety checks on the artwork (most recent check: Oct. 1, 2014). The crack appears to have been the cause of the break and a similar crack could be present in the other two components. Given the risk of possible further failure, ArtsWA requested that the City close the park to public access until further removal.
The remaining two sweeps and three counterweights will be removed the week of February 16th to ensure safety of the area. It is anticipated that the park can be reopened for public use at that time. ArtsWA will coordinate this work with the City’s Parks Director. The six supporting posts will remain in place pending decisions about the artwork’s future. At this time ArtsWA is working to determine the root cause of the failure and the technical and cost feasibility of redesign and repair. A specific time-line for next steps has not yet been determined, though we hope to have a decision and action plan in place prior to the summer season.