Percival Plinth Peoples’ Prize Presented to Local Artist With Powerful Personal Perspective

By Aigner Loren Wilson

Recently, local artist Nancy Thorne-Chambers won the 2020 Peoples’ Prize Winner for the Percival Plinth Project for her work Girl Reading in a Story Place. Oly Arts hosted an interview with the artist about the sculpture and recent win. This article is a highlight of the interview and showcase for the Percival Plinth Project.

It may not be well known that the statues at Percival Landing are on loan to the community from local and regional artists of the Pacific Northwest. Some who’ve lived here for years may have no idea. Each year, from those selections, one winner is chosen to remain on display permanently. Based on community votes, the City of Olympia purchases the sculpture from the artist. That’s how Olympia got such statues as Jole de VivreThe Giant and I, and Rain Forest Dream. This is another way that Olympia keeps its art and artists close. 

Local artist and 2020 Peoples’ Prize Winner for the Percival Plinth Project Nancy Thorne-Chambers shares during an interview, “Everything and everyone exists in relationship to everything else. How we are touched and affected by these relationships have everything to do with how we get along and how we give back to the world.”

That statement perfectly encapsulates the ideals held by having the Percival Plinth Contest. The Percival plinths give artists in our community another platform to express themselves and show how unique but also how connected we are. Visitors to Percival Landing can see that in Joe Batt’s Child with Egg.

Who among us does not have something so full of life and yet fragile in our daily lives that we cling to for joy, comfort, hope? 

Currently, there are 17 sculptures on display around Percival Landing that showcase a variety of themes from passion, imagination, music, and more. Like at many establishments in town, the art on the landing is for sale if people are interested in buying for their home or private collection. The City advises potential buyers to contact the artist(s) directly for further information about purchasing the individual sculptures. 

For a full map of the statues, their locations, and artists, visit the City of Olympia website and check out their maps. There are a variety of statues along the landing for people to safely peruse at a distance while enjoying the beautiful views of the water and Olympic Mountains in the backdrop.  

Interview with the 2020 Peoples’ Prize Winner for the Percival Plinth Project, local artist Nancy Thorne-Chambers

Nancy Thorne-Chambers is a retired family therapist whose time working with the community and her own lived-experiences influences and inspires her statue work.

Girl Reading in a Story Place is a part of a much larger, expansive work featuring fantastical elements like anthropomorphic beavers and mice There are more than 30 animals and insects and six-foot-tall trees that make up the giant display. Currently, Thorne-Chambers is looking for a home for the larger installation. Due to its joyous and imaginative nature, it would be great for children’s hospitals or libraries. 

OLY ARTS: Percival Landing is such an Olympia staple and well-known landmark. What is your personal connection to Olympia and the Landing? 

Nancy Thorne-Chambers: I moved to Olympia in 1970 when my three children were very young. Once they were grown, I worked as an illustrator, then went back to school, starting at SPSCC to study psychology. I had a private practice as an Individual and Family Therapist for a few years then worked for a local behavioral/mental health facility as a residential manager helping clients stabilize and live successfully in their homes. 

Field trips would many times include visits to Percival Landing and the beauty of Puget Sound. I believe these visits to Olympia’s boardwalk and Capital Lake were extremely helpful to relieve stress for clients, create new conversation and was important for those needing a fresh, broader perspective from their daily lives.

OA: The main subject in of your statue seems so animated and real. Is she inspired by someone in your life or past?

NTC: At age three, when I was suddenly taken far away from my birth family; mother, father and six siblings, I found comfort from loneliness in storybooks. Colorful pictures spoke to me. It seems Girl Reading in a Story Place is me. This sculpture of a young girl is empowered by her ability to read to her community of friends and to tell her story.

OA: The Plinth Project hosts so many different artists and themes. What motivated you to send in your submission for the contest?

NTC: Submitting my artwork to be shared with my community is how I want to communicate and give back to the world. When my work is on display, I love the responses, interactions and comments from visitors.

OA: Olympia and Thurston County are home to so many different artists. I’m sure there’s some within your community or network that you’d like to shine a light on. 

NTC: I absolutely love Nathan Robles’ sculptures. [Winner of the 2019 Percival Plinth contest.]

OA: Now that you’ve won and Girl Reading in a Story Place has a home at Percival Landing are there any other upcoming showings, exhibitions you want people to be aware of?

NTC: The original ceramic tableau [that Girl Reading in a Story Place is from] consists of three life size trees and 32 fancifully dressed animals and insects all sitting in a forest setting. The ceramic scene is now on display in a window at Olympia’s Capital Mall and the eight bronze pieces are on display in the next window. 

The other statues will be on display for another couple of months for visitors and locals to graze upon. This author’s favorite this year is Pollinator by MacRae Wylde.

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