Instrument Implement: Walla Walla Campanile, completed in 2008, is a sculpture measuring twenty-five and a half feet high and is located in front of the William A. Grant Water & Environmental Center at Walla Walla Community College. The Water & Environmental Center is designed as a common ground meeting place, to collectively garner consensus for the sake of a healthy watershed and the next seven generations. Art often serves as a catalyst to that consensus process and is the intent of the Walla Walla Campanile.

The sculpture, as Instrument, marks the passage of time as well as heralding the environmental conditions of the Walla Walla watershed. As Implement, the discs that once worked the local loess soils have been transformed into a campanile, which when combined with an ensemble of additional elements, embellishes the sculpture as allegory.

The tintinnabulation, or ringing, of the campanile is set by computer to the time of day, to a traditional change ringing peal, to compositions based on the eight disc “chance scale”, and responds to the ongoing scientific data stream rhythms gleaned from the Walla Walla watershed. The campanile includes sixty-one carbon steel harrow discs. The top eight are framed with a brass bell yoke and can be pneumatically rung, triggered by a computer signal. The remaining discs can be rung manually. The profile of the fifteen-foot high structure of harrow discs is based on a bell profile, which when repeated, resembles a sonic wave sign.

As if change ringing, the sonic peal responds to the data stream, tolling the health of the watershed and the return of the salmon. The salmon is the “canary in the coal mine,” a living indicator of the condition of the watershed. A triptych sculptural assemblage, consisting of a cast bronze female salmon (coated canary yellow) placed in a cage/net and balanced on a solid glass salmon egg, suggests that the salmon is our “canary” indicating the health of our ecosystem and in particular, the Walla Walla watershed.

The campanile is supported by a structure mimicking the power transmission towers crisscrossing eastern Washington that transport hydroelectric power. The structure inverts at the top into an antenna tower suggesting a tepee. The tower armature also supports a double-sided framed panel with glass-laminated photovoltaic cells facing south and on the reverse side, an image of McNary Dam. During the day the solar cells cast their shadows onto the translucent image of the dam. Both the dam image and solar array are backlit at night.

The sculpture rests on a plinth serving as a footing. The side surfaces of the pedestal present cast concrete impressions taken from license plates stamped at the penitentiary in Walla Walla. These “Poetic License” impressions include: on the east side, “WALLA WALLA CAMPANILE INSTRUMENT IMPLEMENT 2008”; on the north side, “DISCS HERALD THE WATERSHED PEAL OF CHANGE RINGING”; on the west side, a poem by WWCC professor Jennifer Boyden, “WATER IS LODGE TO WHAT IS DIS LODGED”; and on the south side, “BOUND TO BE,” by Hillela Simpson.

The sculpture is sited near Titus Creek and adjacent to the trail from the main campus to the Water & Environmental Center. Titus Creek flows past the Campanile and on to Mill Creek which then flows into the Walla Walla River and on to the Columbia River. At the confluence of Titus and Mill Creek, a panel supporting 144 stamped aluminum license plates presents poetic notions about the watershed by writers of the watershed. The plates have a reflective color background, which distinguishes one poem from the next. The contributing poets are Jennifer Boyden, Janice King, Dan Lamberton, and Katrina Roberts.

The realization of the Instrument Implement project is the result of the efforts of many citizens, organizations, companies, governmental entities and tribal members including the support of the Washington State Arts Commission in partnership with Washington State Department of Corrections and Walla Walla Community College.


2008 • William A. Grant Water & Environmental Center, Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla, WA

Stainless steel, concrete, glass, harrow discs, solar panels, bronze fish and cage, electronics. 30' x 11' x 7'.

© 2008 Buster Simpson

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