Community group acquires new sculpture near Fairhaven Library


Shirley Erickson, Bellingham

Working with glass since 1979, and then adding welding to her skills in 1990, artist Shirley Erickson combines the two to make free standing art pieces. Erickson poses in her studio at her home Oct. 14, 2010 in Bellingham.


Thanks to an informal organization called Group Art Purchase, Bellingham has a new addition to the city's collection of outdoor sculptures.

Coordinated by Jeni Cottrell, members of Group Art Purchase have come together to buy artwork not only for the City of Bellingham but also Lydia Place, Sean Humphrey House and Firehouse Performing Arts Center.

A recent addition to the collection is "Earth Guardian," a sculpture by Shirley Erickson. It's located in front of Fairhaven Library, 1117 12th St.

Erickson, who has lived in Bellingham for four decades, teaches beginning welding and 3-D design at Bellingham Technical College. Here's more about Erickson and her art.

Question: How would you describe "Earth Guardian?"

Answer: The piece at the library is part of a series I call "my guardians." "Earth Guardian" is a metaphor about life. It is a guardian to watch over the Earth and the knowledge that is contained in all of us.

The top glass piece is a mandala, or the circle of life. It represents beginnings and endings, the spiral means what goes around comes back around. The glass that looks like water stands for the changes that are part of life. Life is always changing; that's what makes it interesting.

Q: What's the importance of public art?

A: I have been on the Bellingham Arts Commission since 2000. Public art is an important part of our community. Like it or not, it starts us thinking and asking questions. Art helps us to define the history of a culture. I believe that art should be available to everyone, and that's what makes public art important.

Q: Where can people see your art?

A: The Fairhaven Library piece is the second permanent sculpture I have in the city of Bellingham. The other one is at Big Rock Garden Park.

I have several sculptures in public spaces, including the City of Everett, Everett Community College and the City of Blaine.

I made a memorial for my parents, who both passed away in the same year. I donated it to Hospice House to use as a fundraiser. People can purchase leaves or birds with loved ones' names on them to become part of a screen that is in the garden at the Bellingham facility.

Q: What inspires you?

A: My best ideas usually come to me in the middle of the night. Fully formed, they are just gifts, and I know just what I want them to look like.

I keep a drawing pad by my bed and sketch the idea. Usually I know what they are about; mostly a problem I have been pondering, the "why's" of life.

I think of my work as a form of visual communication.

Q: What's your work process?

A: Making the sculpture is part of the fun for me. I enjoy that process. Figuring out how to create what I visualize is sometimes challenging, and things do change as I make the work.

I wouldn't like to have someone else do the physical labor. It just wouldn't feel like mine in the end.

Reach Margaret Bikman at or 360-715-2273.


People can view Shirley Erickson's and other sculptures in the city's outdoor public art collection at

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