POULSBO — Bill Austin described it as his baby. Mayor Becky Erickson said it reflects Poulsbo’s community spirit. And contractor Kelly Hogan said working on it was a blast.
They are all describing the new Viking statue — a 12-foot-tall sculpted warrior — to be unveiled Friday at Viking Avenue and Lindvig Way. The statue was a public art project between Austin and the city.
The City Council has been discussing an art project for the Lindvig Bridge, connecting Front Street to Viking Avenue, since 2008. As trolls are a traditional Scandinavian creature that guards bridges, the council attempted to find the right location for a troll earlier this year.
Erickson said the idea began to falter with no feasible location, but then she saw a picture of a Viking statue at a Danish castle.
“It’s who we are,” Erickson said of Poulsbo’s Scandinavian heritage. “These kind of community events and symbols are very important … Viking [Avenue] has had a rough couple of years. By having these tree lightings and the statue and getting the waterfall going again, [these projects] reinvigorate that part of our community.”
The city had the motivation. It had the money, courtesy of the Bjorgen Beautification Fund. And Austin had the connections. Mark Gale, a friend of Austin’s, is a sculptor whose large projects grace the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo and, locally, Poulsbo’s Marine Science Center. He created a seven-story Beauty and the Beast Mountain for Disneyworld.
Gale, currently based in Tacoma, said he wants to be in business for himself and continue to do projects like this Viking. He said this project is easily worth around $90,000 but cost the city $25,000.
As for why he chose to do the project at such a discounted rate, he said, “To do something that I love to do and not have to work for anyone else.”
The Viking is made of about 500 pounds of rebar steel and 5,000 pounds of cement. Gale worked from the bottom up — forming the shape of the man piece by piece, then adding Viking details: a thick beard, “leather” belt, a coat of chainmail, a cape, a thick sword and a helmet. The helmet has horns, despite the fact that Scandinavian Vikings did not have horns on their helmets.
“I want people to have a sense of humor” about the horns, Erickson said. “Most of the time when people think about Vikings, they think about horned helmets; whether that’s authentic or not, it’s the common perception.”
Besides, Poulsbo has a smaller, historically-accurate Viking statue in Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park.
Gale didn’t work from blueprints. He drew up a likeness for the council, but when it came time to design, he said he used his own anatomical likeness. He would measure himself, like his arm, and doubled it. Gale even crafted the Viking’s face after his own.
Hogan works as a designer and contractor on rock gardens, and is based in Puyallup. He and Gale have collaborated before, and both would like to branch out and do their own projects.
“Not a lot of people do this,” Hogan said. “It’s part of the fun. It’s a total specialty deal.”
The unveiling of the Viking will be a highlight of the Viking Avenue Christmas Tree Lighting, Friday, 7 p.m. The event will feature music by the North Kitsap High School Choir, the presence of the Sons of Norway Vikings, and the lighting of the tree next to Martinson Cabin. There will be hot beverages, candy canes and hay rides. The event is free and open to the public.
The tree was donated by St. Mick’s Tree Farm, Kingston.
Editor's note: This article reflects the name of the city's public arts fund, the Bjorgen Beautification Fund, which was incorrectly named in the previous version.