Give the proposed plankton sculpture another look | Letter to the editor

Posted 5/19/22

I wish to stand for the life forms below the surface of the sea, what we call “plankton,” and for the art of Rebecca Welti, a local artist who proposes bringing depictions of these …

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Give the proposed plankton sculpture another look | Letter to the editor


I wish to stand for the life forms below the surface of the sea, what we call “plankton,” and for the art of Rebecca Welti, a local artist who proposes bringing depictions of these exquisite creatures into public consciousness through her amazing sculptures.

This is what great artists do and her work — though strange to some — should at least be considered with respect. Yet The Leader article last week, reporting on a hearing by the Arts Commission, implies widespread denigration of this possibility (“freakish,” “visitors wouldn’t understand,” “without beauty or history,” “crude,” “doesn’t say ‘Port Townsend,’” and so on.)

Those alarmed by these unique sculptures are, of course, entitled to their opinions.  But the Leader’s implication (headline: “Proposed plankton sculpture skewered by residents”) is that there is a widespread recoiling from Rebecca Welti’s art. I don’t think so.

For those alarmed by the non-Victorian aura of this plankton sculpting I urge a “going below the surface” on this issue — look into the exquisite beauty of the plankton, become aware of their centrality to the survival of fish (and thus the fishing industry), learn how fast many species of plankton are becoming extinct (many of which have never been described or named).

Full disclosure: Yes, I am one of those “plankton aficionados,” enthralled by plankton for the many decades since studying them at university; and I am a neighbor of Rebecca Welti — I see her sculptings every day and know of the quality of her work and her fierce desire as an artist to surprise, delight, and inform.

OK, so we can love plankton — but not as public art? Must public art be the lowest common denominator?

That which won’t frighten off the tourists? Or might we consider that which is provocative?

Here we are; a seaport full of yachts and, notice, fishing boats representing a beleaguered industry, and we must live our lives above the waters that surround us? Here is a chance to be reminded of so much that we don’t know, but upon which our lives and future depends.

Give the plankton sculpting another look, and discover plankton while you’re at it. You may find incredible beauty that you didn’t know existed.

Robert Greenway


8 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Justin Hale

    If you want that ugly thing in our city park start a Go-Fund-Me, I don't want to see a penny of my tax dollars going towards it. I will gladly remove those stupid wooden blocks for free.

    Thursday, May 19 Report this

  • Snowball_InHawaii

    I have to agree with you, Justin! Just because I can see my naked rear-end in the mirror in my bathroom - that doesn't make it "art" that everyone else is eager to admire.

    Friday, May 20 Report this

  • Thomas Camfield

    I sort of like it . . . and there’s nothing wrong with mixing a bit of education into the scheme of things as time goes by. Of course, we could always instead reduce the spirit of old-time Port Townsend to its baser essentials by casting a statue of several prostitutes. Around 1890 their “ill fame” cribs occupied thickly the general area of present-day Pope Park.

    Friday, May 20 Report this

  • ptleader

    Thank you Robert for your letter of support in favor of Rebecca Welti's interesting work. I agree with your thoughts and support the addition of this piece to the park. Perhaps it seems a bit weird to some, but I thought that PT prided itself on being a little out there...

    Friday, May 20 Report this

  • MargeS

    I don't think Port Townsend is "out there" anymore. As to the sculpture, I think of it as well, boring. There is a dragon at H.J. Carroll Park by Mall Johani that captivates children whenever I visit the park. This is what opens up their minds imagination. Plankton, not so much. Not that it isn't an important creature eaten by many larger sea creatures.

    There are many artists out there, I still miss Tom Jay.

    Friday, May 20 Report this

  • deanna

    I love Welti's concept and agree with Mr Greenway's comments.

    I find it hilarious that one of the detractors of this plankton references Johani's dragon approvingly.

    The dragon is well-liked at the playground, is roughly the same size and climb-ability ... and get this ... the imaginary creature opens up children's minds while the invisible-to-the-naked-eye creature would not? This argument makes no sense and has no justification beyond one person's opinion.

    It's so sad to see the same negative voices, always ready to tear apart a gift that an artist wishes to give her community. A variety of art is an economic benefit to any community, as many business leaders will attest, and this is backed up by solid economic data. Socially, it has been proven that the more art a community has, the more tolerant the community becomes. There are no downsides to increasing the amount of public art in our town! Let's do this!

    Friday, May 20 Report this

  • Justin Hale

    I agree with Marge's opinion on this matter. The Dragon at the children's play area at H.J. Carroll Park is something that children can actually play on, ride the dragon! Here is a link to a 2011 story in the Leader that shows just that,,50534

    The "plankton" sculpture is a strange, almost creepy-looking thing, un-inviting and certainly not anything I would want my tax dollars going towards.

    Show 99% of the people a picture of the Plankton and the first response is going to be "what the hel is that?"

    " a gift that an artist wishes to give her community", really M. Welti is offering it to the city free of charge?

    I would much prefer seeing something by Johani or Jay, how about some of David Eisenhower's work?

    Saturday, May 21 Report this

  • winniwoman

    The place to view plankton is at the Marine Science Center under a microscope. Here the children (and adults) can see the *real* animal moving around in water. They are told what they are and the purpose they serve. Again, I think the pirate ship was fun for the kids. I have said before that a mommy and baby orca that can be climbed on would be much more educational and fun. A plaque could accompany them telling the story of our resident orcas. Or how about a large octopus; wouldn't that be fun? People...orcas, octopuses, native americans, the Victorian Seaport story, etc. These are things that define Port Townsend and that tourists come to see. These are things that attract them. These are also things that also attract children. There is no way anyone is going to tell me that their first thought in seeing the plankton sculpture is anything other than a "Whoa, a giant *****!" Please go visit the science center to view and learn about the plankton. It really is a great place to tour and one of our outstanding Port Townsend attractions. Please don't think this statue will be an attraction. Port Townsend will become the butt of many jokes instead.

    MJ Peck, M.S. in Sport Studies, UMass, Amherst

    Former elementary P.E. teacher

    Former docent for nearly 700 hours at the Marine Science Center

    Sunday, May 22 Report this