‘Soul Pole’ Artwork Will Return To Douglass-Truth Branch Library After Conservation Process
release date: 11/19/2021
The Soul Pole will once again stand tall at the Douglass-Truth Branch, The Seattle Public Library announced today. The 21-foot-tall wooden sculpture, which was deinstalled in April 2021, is undergoing conservation work and will be reinstalled at its original spot on the Douglass-Truth lawn in early 2022.
Carved in 1969 by six artists associated with Seattle Rotary Boys Club, the Soul Pole was gifted to the Library in 1972 and installed at the branch in 1973. For nearly 50 years, the artwork, which represents 400 years of African American history, has been admired by community members as it has watched over the neighborhood from the library’s front lawn. But after weathering many seasons and deteriorating in condition, the Soul Pole was deinstalled for evaluation, and a conservation plan developed to repair, stabilize and protect the sculpture. Artech Fine Art Services, an organization with extensive experience in the restoration and preservation of artwork, is managing the project and well-known conservator Corine Landrieu of Landrieu Conservation is doing the conservation work.
The Library expects that work on the Soul Pole will be completed by the end of 2021 and that the sculpture will be reinstalled in the first quarter of 2022.
“We are so pleased that the Soul Pole can be repaired and protected, and will return to its historic spot on the Douglass-Truth lawn,” said Andrew Harbison, Interim Director of Library Programs and Services at The Seattle Public Library. “That is where it belongs.”
Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, president of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, expressed her joy at this news.
“The historic energy that emanates from the corner of 23rd Avenue and East Yesler Way is significant to the past, present, and future. The return of the Soul Pole symbolizes the restorative spirit and strength in community that grounds us,” she said. “Thank you to the Library for leading this conservation effort that validates and sustains the African-American footprint on this historic spot in the heart of our community.”
The goal of the conservation project is to preserve the Soul Pole in as close to its current form as possible for generations to come. Once the work is done, visitors will notice almost no difference in the Soul Pole, but it will be prepared to withstand several more decades of exposure to Seattle weather. The one visible alteration will be a zinc cap placed on top of the Soul Pole to protect it from water intrusion.
The Soul Pole will undergo annual maintenance, including cleaning, application of wood preservative and inspection of treatment areas for any signs of change.
The Library will add a plaque to display with the original plaque at the Soul Pole’s base to share more information about the conservation and honor the artwork’s history. If public health guidelines allow, the Library will also plan a public celebration of the Soul Pole in 2022.
“We know how important the Soul Pole is to the Central District and the greater Seattle community, and we are looking forward to honoring its history and legacy when the time is right,” said Andrew Harbison.
BACKGROUND ON THE SOUL POLE
The Soul Pole was carved by six artists associated with the Rotary Boys Club to represent 400 years of African American history, as part of a summer arts program associated with the Model Cities Program. Five of the artists were teenagers at the time: Brenda Davis, Larry Gordon, Gregory Jackson, Cindy Jones and Gaylord Young. Rotary Boys Club art director Raqib Mu'ied (formerly Gregory X) led the project.
The sculpture was installed outside the Yesler Branch Library in 1973, just two years before it was renamed the Douglass-Truth Branch in honor of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.
The Library continues to gather information on the Soul Pole’s history, including background on the sculptors. If you have information to share, please contact Elisa Murray, digital communications strategist at The Seattle Public Library, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates on the project can be found at www.spl.org/SoulPole.
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