POULSBO — There’s a new octopus at the Poulsbo Marine Science Center. And it’s a big one. In fact, in confronting the capacious cephalopod, the observer might be glad it’s a sculpture.
The cement sculpture, of an octopus on a rock, weighs 8,000 pounds and measures 7 feet 6 inches tall, 8 feet long, and 9 feet wide. That’s according to project coordinator Bill Austin, vice president of the Marine Science Center board.
A semi-truck delivered the sculpture to the science center March 1, and a fork truck carefully lifted the sculpture and placed it on a raised bed formerly occupied by a maple tree.
The lifelike sculpture was created by Mark Gale, the artist who created the Norseman sculpture on Viking Avenue and Lindvig Way. The project took five or six weeks, Austin said. The project cost $20,000, covered by funds from a state grant for capital improvements, said Bruce Harlow, president of the Marine Science Center board.
“It’s wicked cool — fantastic,” science center director Patrick Mus said. A retired Navy Seabee, Mus drove the fork truck and positioned the sculpture in place. “It’s a good representation of an octopus and it’s something we’ve been trying to get for a long time.”
A good representation, indeed. Harlow said he wanted the sculpture to be lifelike, but not too threatening. “They can be scary things when they’re after prey,” he said of octopi. So Harlow said he let Gale take “a little poetic license” to make the octopus sculpture appear friendly. The crease between the octopus’ body and its tentacles “gives the impression of a smile,” Harlow said.
Mus said the sculpture is already attracting fans. Children touch it and play on it. And the science center has received a lot of comments on its Facebook page. “It’s been received by a lot of people really well,” Mus said. “It’s going to entice people to come into the science center.”
The science center is operated by the nonprofit Poulsbo Marine Science Center Foundation and occupies a downtown waterfront building owned by the city; Sealaska Environmental Services has offices upstairs. The science center has an aquarium, touch tank, classrooms, theater, and a floating lab with underwater camera. The science center provides marine science education for children from four area school districts; Harlow estimates 1,000 to 1,500 elementary and middle school students visit the science center each year.
“It introduces them to the wonders of the saltwater environment,” Harlow said. Inspiration to become good stewards of the marine environment “is a side benefit of what the children get.”
In addition, the science center is open to the public without charge.
The aquarium is periodically home to an octopus from Liberty Bay. A young octopus is kept there for three to six months, then released to the bay and replaced by a new octopus. Mus said he planned to go out March 9 and find a new resident octopus for the aquarium.
Raises city’s profile as a public art center
The octopus sculpture contributes to the City of Poulsbo’s growing portfolio of public art.
In addition to the octopus, there’s the 12-foot Norseman sculpture on Viking Avenue and Lindvig Way; a Viking sculpture at Waterfront Park dedicated in honor of Poulsbo mayor Maurice Lindvig (1969-1976); a mural on Front Street depicting a Viking ship and crew underway; and a driftwood fish sculpture and rock art at Fish Park.
Mayor Becky Erickson said she hopes to raise money for a sculpture of a Norsewoman at Highway 305 and Lincoln Road.
“Public art is just so important, but it has to be public art that is supported by the public and is driven by residents,” she said. “Public art is symbolic of the community, it’s a symbol of who we are. It’s a branding mechanism as well. We are doing a lot of Norwegian kind of things, and it helps foster that brand of Poulsbo’s Scandivanian heritage.”
On that note, we should point out that “octopus” in Norwegian is “blekksprut.”