The new addition to the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC) draws heavily from its past as a BNSF railroad. “The Spikes,” a sculpture created by Kirkland artist Merrily Dicks, is made entirely of railroad spikes collected by area residents from the corridor.
Dicks, who recalled sneaking up next to the tracks at her grandmother’s Houghton home to wave to the flagman in the caboose, said “The Spikes” is not only an art piece, but a reflection of the corridor’s history. “As an artist and historian, I felt that I really needed to do something,” she said. “I wanted something to represent the history of the railroad, since the ties and rails had been removed.”
“People wanted to save those spikes, potentially for some kind of art installation,” City of Kirkland Economic Development Manager Ellen Miller-Wolfe, who also staffs the Kirkland Cultural Arts Commission (KCAC), said.
CKC Coordinator Kari Page, who is also Kirkland’s neighborhood outreach coordinator, facilitated the effort on the city side. “We brought buckets out at all the (CKC) signs to gather up spikes from the railroad,” she said.
In the end, Dicks said more than 400 railroad spikes were collected, by community members who both dropped them in the bucket and gave them directly to her. However, not all of them were usable, as some were bent out of shape.
Then came the task of cleaning them up. Dicks tried electrolysis, acid and using her Dremel tool, but what wound up really working was banging two spikes together. “Sometimes the simplest method works best,” she said.
Dicks, who is known for her abstract paintings, took welding classes at Lake Washington Institute of Technology to help her figure out the technical aspects of bringing her idea for the sculpture to life. “It was a lot like a puzzle,” she said of figuring out how to create “The Spikes.”
In the final product, which Dicks created with help from an assistant, fellow LWTech student Riley Schroeder, people see upside down people, hands and tree branches crafted from the repeated connection of five different spikes. The tallest “branches” of the sculpture reach eight feet, and Dicks estimates the sculpture weighs between 400 and 500 lbs.
Dicks has a lot of people to thank for making this project come together, from the “bucket people” to City of Kirkland staff to LWTech staff. “It takes a village,” she said. “I wish I could meet every one of the people (who contributed spikes) and say, ‘Thank you’,” she said.
City staff and officials seem to be equally appreciative of Dicks’ work on the project. “It’s out of love for Kirkland that she did this,” Miller-Wolfe said.
The Kirkland City Council unanimously approved the installation of the sculpture at its Nov. 15 meeting, and the councilmembers shared their appreciation for the piece and the people involved. “This is a beautiful, incredible sculpture created by an artist who lives and breathes Kirkland,” Councilmember Penny Sweet said.
“This is is going to be an amazing landmark on the corridor,” Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold added.
The city’s parks staff installed “The Spikes” on the CKC on the northwest side of the 85th Street underpass last week. The sculpture was assembled and stored at LWTech until it was able to be installed on a concrete base at the CKC site. King County’s arts and heritage public development authority, 4Culture, funded the concrete needed for the installation.
“It’s fantastic,” Page said of how the project came together. “It’s a great representation of this community.”
“The Spikes” is the first piece of permanent art on the CKC, and while there are no set plans for more at the moment, all those involved in this project indicated they hope to get another one going soon.
“It would be fun, especially if children were involved,” Dicks, who has taught kids’ (and adult) art classes, said. “I would be open to volunteering to do something on the corridor.”
While no money is earmarked for such a project at the moment, Miller-Wolfe said anyone interested in future art projects on the corridor should email the KCAC at email@example.com. “We’re always open to those opportunities,” she said.
In the meantime, Dicks, who has paintings on display at Ryan James Fine Arts, will return to her best-known medium. “I have to get out of that three-dimensional thing and back into painting,” she said, adding she is interested in doing more welding in the future.