Located on the front lawn of Fire Station 13 in Beacon Hill is Ellen Ziegler’s Tidal Wave Story from 1987, seven bench-like forms ranging from 12 to 18 inches high, placed in a curve.
Ziegler worked with architect I. Mervin Gorasht to meet the community’s needs in remodeling the fire station. While studying the community, Ziegler found that elderly people frequently waited outside the station for blood pressure checks. To accommodate this need and create an appropriate artwork, she created this series of benches that tell (in English) a Japanese folktale about fire. The story tells of a farmer who could see a tidal wave coming from his rice field high above the ocean. To save the villagers below, he set his field on fire. People were saved from the tidal wave when they ran up the mountain to extinguish the flames. This parable about community is told through images and words through this series of sculptural forms, each a different material, and each inscribed with inlaid bronze part of the story.
In 1984 voters approved a bond issue that allowed for the renovation of 16 fire stations as well as art for several of these facilities. Three artists ‑ Tom Askman, Kenny Schneider and Ziegler ‑ were chosen to work as a team on the fire station program. The artists were asked to examine all the fire stations and to select those at which they would like to work. The artists selected five stations throughout the city: the old Fire Station 6 (no longer being used), Fire Station 13, Fire Station 17, Fire Station 41 and the old Fire Station 10 (now the Fire Station Headquarters).
Tidal Wave Story was funded by the Department of Administrative Services (now the Department of Finance and Administrative Services) 1% for Art funds.
IMAGES: Ellen Ziegler, Tidal Wave Story, 1987; concrete, terrazzo, steel, stone, bronze. Located at Fire Station 13 at 3601 Beacon Ave. S. in Beacon Hill.
Weekly Art Hit is featuring artworks every week from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the city’s public art program.