Big Dena'ina Center public art piece will go back up with new name

mdunham@adn.comJanuary 21, 2014 

"Constellation," the three-story art installation that previously occupied the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center's lobby, is awaiting reinstallation after being removed for repainting.

The 1 Percent for Art piece by Massachusetts sculptor Ralph Helmick features a 66-foot long, 15-foot wide swarm of 354 painted urethane animal figures representing fish, sea mammals, land animals and birds of the Cook Inlet area.

It was taken down in early November after UV damage from sunlight was noticed on individual pieces, said Angela Demma, curator of public art for the Municipality of Anchorage.

"The component elements of the sculpture were fading," Helmick said in an email.

Since the piece was still under warranty, it was removed and refinished at the artist's expense. "It was quite a bummer," Demma said. "But we caught it in time."

Some of the pieces were stripped and repainted. All pieces had a protective layer added to prevent further damage from exposure to the sun. The restoration was done in Anchorage by local artists, she said.

Helmick said he expected the work to be reinstalled this winter. Demma thinks it will happen as early as next month.

However, it will be renamed when it goes back up. Though Helmick selected "Constellation" when the work went up, "The artist never really liked the name," Demma said. He's now retitled it "Prospect."

The piece was originally installed in the Dena'ina Center in Sept. 2008. The design by Helmick and his frequent collaborator, MIT-trained engineer and rocket scientist Stuart Schechter, was selected from proposals by 128 artists.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.

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