October 12, 2008

Maya Lin creates tribal tribute

Art tells age-old story The Confluence Project Sites

Healing waters: Artist Maya Lin, famous for large-scale pieces, is midway through her largest one yet: The Confluence Project, along 450 miles of river in Washington and Oregon.It’s art that connects four rivers and an ocean; that connects local tribes, governments and residents. It connects history with environment; a tumultuous past with an uncertain future.

The seven-site, 10-year, $30 million Confluence Project is a series of mammoth artworks along the Columbia River and tributaries--and sculptor/architect Maya Lin is the artist. Three sites have been completed, including the two closest to Tacoma, and there are four more to go.

The project is, at its core, art-based reconciliation. It began as three separate projects to commemorate the Lewis and Clark journey of 1805-1806: A vision of the Umatilla Confederated Tribes to create art in their homeland, an idea to commemorate the Lewis and Clark story at the Pacific coast, and a monetary gift for Lewis and Clark public art in Vancouver.

Coincidentally, organizers of all three projects chose Lin as their artist.

Jane Jacobsen, then executive director of the George C. Marshall program in Vancouver, Wash., heard of the other two projects and, along with fellow Vancouverite David DiCesare developed the idea of a multi-sited project along the Columbia River Basin. Jacobsen sent a proposal to Lin, who rose to fame in 1982 with her Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“We thought it should focus on telling the 10,000-year story of the people, the river and its future,” says Jacobsen, now executive director of the project.

One year and many meetings later, Lin was on board. What swung her was the appeal by the Umatilla, Nez Perce and Chinook tribes to create a tribute to their homelands.

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