Kids halfway to saving sculptures

The children have spoken. The Kirkland statues need to stay.

With Robin Hood-like tenacity and passion, Kirkland student Mia Cooledge and her band of merry fund-raisers will do whatever it takes to ensure that Mountain Comrades (the bears), Close Quarters (bunnies), and Bounding Mule Deer (at Carillon Point) stay put. Yes, Kirkland is a far cry from Sherwood Forest, but the girls' eloquent pleas for donations would soften even Prince John's steely mettle.

These three statues, which have been on loan from art collector Bill Ballantine since the early 1990s, are being offered for sale to the city for $212,160. The catch is "substantial progress" must be made by January 15, according to the city's Web site, in order for the deadline to be extended by three months to March 1.

At press time, exactly half had been raised - $105,000 - which is "where we wanted to be by the end of the year," says Kirkland Cultural Council chair Kathy Feek.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you're right. It was only four years ago that the statue of Marina Park's beloved "Puddle Jumpers" was at stake. This sturdy string of gleeful children is an ever-popular climbing magnet, especially during summer concerts and activities; moreover, it has risen to the stature as an unofficial symbol of Kirkland. "For the young kids it's very important and I didn't want to take that away from them," states Mia.

Saving the "Puddle Jumpers" was the brainchild of Mary Hudspeth, a Kirkland mom whose daughter, Emily, is good friends with Mia. In 2000, when the word got out that the city was about to lose her favorite statue, Emily got quite upset, according to her mother.

"So I looked at my daughter and said 'if it's so important to you than do something about it.'" Dutifully, she went to the Peter Kirk Elementary School student council and they agreed to collect money at school. This effort combined with fund-raising at the Wednesday Market a couple of times netted about $500-600, according to Emily's mom.

"The best thing she learned is that she has a voice and can make a difference," says Hudspeth. "She learned if something's important, you can do something about it."

Four years later, 14-year-old Emily and Mia and countless other friends, mostly students at International Community School, intentionally inserted themselves into a similar situation.

Devon Simpson, another compadre, helped fund-raise during Kirkland's tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 27, which garnered $118. She admits that had it not been for her friend's efforts, she may not be involved. "I'm doing it to be a good friend to Mia. She's just that type of girl that does that kind of thing. She likes helping the community a lot."

Mia's mother, Bonnie Berry, agrees. "I feel proud to have her stepping up to the plate and of the support she's gotten from the Kirkland Cultural Council. I think that it is such a strong message that they are giving support for her efforts. I feel very fortunate to be in a community where individual efforts are being encouraged."

The community is responding. On the "magical night of shopping" (Dec. 2), Mia and a friend walked around with a collection box, and ultimately pooled $83. During the evening, one of the women they approached initially declined, then thought better of it and tried to find the girls to make a contribution. Not being able to find them, she later went directly to the city and donated $400.

The city has launched a serious fund-raising campaign of its own, gathering financial support from corporations and individuals alike. Most recently, the Kirkland Cultural Council began selling charms (for necklaces or bracelets) designed by local artists, created to commemorate the city's Centennial and subsidize the public art fund. These efforts have conveniently dovetailed into the "Save the Statues" drive. The charms are whimsical yet sophisticated. As Feek says, "we might as well have fun with it."

(The Cow and Coyote sculpture and a rendering of the Peter Kirk building are available for $65 in sterling silver and $295 for 14k gold. The price includes tax. The charms are available for purchase at City Hall and at J. Fritz Connoisseurs at 1 Lake Street. Feek reports that charms depicting Heritage Hall and the "Puddle Jumpers" statue will be available soon.)

Regarding the council's art fund, Feek looks forward to applying the funds to keeping art in some of the city's surrounding neighborhoods. "We would like to be in a position to acquire things to take us in a new direction," she says.

For now, the focus is on the statues. "We have received so many phone calls from people who want to help. We tell them, 'Have a party, tell your neighbors.' We realize there is a lot of fund-raising going on. We can't emphasize enough how much we appreciate people's efforts."

There is no doubting Kirkland's love affair with its statues. In fact, the statues have become such an integral part of Kirkland's culture to the extent that they are engendering mythical tales. Legend has it if you rub the cow's rear (from the "Cow and Coyote" statue), good luck will ensue.

If you look closely, you will notice that one side of its hindquarters is noticeably smoother. Feek herself attests to the veracity of the myth. Recently, she rubbed the cow's bottom before a meeting where she was seeking an art grant. As a result, she says, "we can now bring art to the Wednesday Market."

"People have important childhood memories of these statues," affirms Mia. "Also, it's an important part of our culture. I heard a story where one lady used to live a few blocks away and when she was a young child, she would take a daily walk and touch the bunnies and then walk back home."

Devon agrees: "I remember playing on the bunnies. I remember they've been there the whole time [that I've been growing up] and they're really cool. Everybody from out of town recognizes them. It's a really good thing to have in Kirkland."

So, when will this modern-day Robin Hood hang up her quiver? Mia declares unequivocally: "I don't plan on stopping until I'm sure that our statues are saved."

If you would like to donate to the "Save the Animals" fund, you may send donations to 123 5th Ave., Kirkland, 98033. Checks should be payable to "Save the Animals Fund." For more information, contact Kathy Feek, chair, Kirkland Cultural Council, at[[In-content Ad]]