Restoration Begins on Yakima Valley SunDome Circle of Light | Local
The whine of power tools drifted around the Yakima Valley SunDome as two men worked above ground Thursday morning to remove a massive piece of art piece by piece.
Height is a challenge in the restoration of Circle of Light, the 1992 creation by Richard C. “Dick” Elliott that circles the edge of the SunDome’s roof. And although at least half of its approximately 50,000 colored reflectors have fallen off their white plastic backplates, removing the remaining reflectors and backplates isn’t easy – hence the power tools.
Restoration of the largest piece in the Washington State Art Collection began last Monday. Burton Construction Inc. is removing the old industrial 3-inch road reflectors and installing their replacements, which were from the same manufacturer that Elliott used for the originals.
Circle of Light is 880 feet long and just over 5 feet wide. Elliott, aided by his brother-in-law, spent six weeks in 1992 hand-applying each 3-inch reflector with an adhesive he patented. Elliott has created 24 sections of distinctive designs, six of which are inspired by the patterns of traditional Yakama baskets.
Workers started by removing reflectors and backplates in a few sections and installing new reflectors to see how the process unfolds, said Janae Huber, collections manager for the Washington State Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places program. . An architectural conservator with the Architectural Resources Group is evaluating his work before it continues, Huber said.
In 2021, the Legislative Assembly approved funding for the purchase of 50,000 replacement reflectors, labor, conservation oversight, elevators and scaffolding. The project is expected to be completed in late summer or early fall, according to the state arts commission, which manages the roughly 5,000 pieces in the state art collection.
The challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic were unavoidable. As of May 2021, the restoration project was expected to cost approximately $508,000. It’s been impacted by COVID shutdowns and other supply chain issues like shipping delays, Huber said.
“It was a big learning curve,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure that Circle of Light is restored in a way that is true to Dick Elliott’s vision.”
Elliott, who died in 2008, is best known for creations like Circle of Light – large sculptural installations using industrial freeway reflectors to form intricate, symbolic geometric patterns. Elliott’s works are celebrated for showing variations in light and dynamic interactions between colors, according to his biography on the state arts commission website.
Ellensburg artist Jane Orleman, Elliott’s wife of 38 years, said he would be “absolutely thrilled” to know his art is so appreciated and meaningful after 30 years. She worked with state arts officials on the project to restore Circle of Light to its original brilliance and is excited to see the work underway.
“The restoration of the Circle of Light fills me with pride and pleasure. It’s a tribute to the creative vision of Richard Elliott,” said Orleman.
The Washington State Art Collection is one of the most diverse and exciting collections in the country, and Circle of Light is one of its gems, said Karen Hanan, executive director of the state arts commission.
“This restoration not only speaks to the vision of Elliott, but also to the spirit of Yakima,” Hanan said. “We are thrilled to help reintroduce this wonderful work to the world.”