Whale sculpture gets statewide attention

Former Alaska First Lady Ermalee Hickel is the honorary statewide chair of the capital city’s whale sculpture fundraising campaign.

The citizen’s committee has raised nearly $350,000 toward the $2.3 million project, a life-size bronze breaching humpback whale to be sculpted by Skip Wallen in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood. Committee chairwoman Kathy Ruddy says Hickel, who lives in Anchorage, will give the project some statewide reach.

“Having people upstate learn what we’re trying to do. A capital awareness campaign,” Ruddy says.

The whale has been donated to the City and Borough, which has agreed to locate and maintain it on city property.

Courtesy CBJ

The Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole this week approved the final sculpture location. Once planned for busy Marine Park, the 27-foot whale will be part of the proposed maritime park near the Douglas Bridge.

Ruddy calls it an optimal location.

“As you’re coming up the channel you’ll be able to see it,” she says. “You won’t be able to see it from Egan Drive, but Skip Wallen was always concerned about road noise in the first place, because he wants this to be an extraordinary experience where you see this whale and fountain, and in your mind you see a live whale breaching out of the water, which many of us have seen, but not everyone, so we’re eager to create that experience.”

The project is still about a year from completion. The committee is holding a fundraising dinner and auction Friday evening at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

The ten 6-foot resin whales’ tails that have been seen around Juneau this summer will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to the project.