Shimmer and Shoal

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Client: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Location: Tacoma, WA, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $265,000

Project Team

Artist

Gordon Huether Studio

Overview

Following a competitive public submission process, Gordon Huether was selected in 2017 to create two immersive art installations for the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. The artworks, entitled Shimmer and Shoal, are intended to engage visitors and reflect the main theme of the Zoo & Aquarium: “We share the ocean and the responsibility to protect it.” As guests walk down the ramps inside the Pacific Seas Aquarium, multicolored shimmer light will play around them, as if they’re descending to the ocean’s depths. Overhead, a school of metal fish glints and flutters.

Goals

The goal for these two projects was to engage visitors and reflect the main theme of the Zoo & Aquarium: "We share the ocean and the responsibility to protect it." For Shimmer, the bright, sparkling light formed when sunlight reflects from water waves, inspires this first installation for the Pacific Seas Aquarium. Shoal, a suspended installation for the Tidal Touch area, pays tribute to the Pacific herring, a small, but hugely important fish in the ecology and cultures of the Pacific coast. Inspired by the glinting and mesmerizing formation created by herring as they proceed through the waters of Puget Sound.

Process

For Shimmer, Gordon and team worked with a videographer, as well as lighting and projection specialists, to record water patterns at the aquarium and then project the patterns onto the floors and walls of the Jelly Fish Ramp, creating a truly immersive experience. Color and light are major components of Shimmer as the installation slowly transforms in color throughout the day. Shoal is comprised of 2500 laser-cut and hand-polished stainless steel herring, which are illuminated with a slowly revolving array of colored LED lights. The works were funded through the Metro Parks Public Art Program, adopted in 2014, which devotes one percent of any capital project budget over $100,000 to public art. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) is the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Pacific Northwest. The 29-acre zoological park was established in 1905, and attracts approximately 700,000 visitors a year. It is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA), which ensure rigorously high standards of animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education and more.