Artwork chosen for Tahoe City’s ‘bubble gum’ pipeline project |

Artwork chosen for Tahoe City’s ‘bubble gum’ pipeline project

Stephane Cellier, an art instructor living and teaching in Virginia City, presented this artwork to adorn the new Truckee River sewer pipe.
Courtesy Stephane Cellier |

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — The Tahoe City Public Utility District has chosen an artist to paint the sewer pipe that will replace the decades-old, gum-ridden line crossing a portion of the Truckee River.

What started with 14 proposals would later be whittled down to four candidates, and then to one winner: Stephane Cellier, an art instructor living and teaching in Virginia City.

He will be granted a $4,600 honorarium to provide artwork to the pipe. The honorarium is expected to also cover costs of materials, labor and transportation of the artwork, said Kurt Althof, grants and community information advisor with TCPUD.

Marguerite Sprague, Tahoe Public Art’s coordinator on the project, said the number of artist proposals was higher than she expected.

“I was like, ‘can’t (TCPUD) replace a few more pipes so we can use a few more of these ideas?’” Sprague said. “The overwhelming majority of proposals seemed to come from people who were really compelling, so it was a tough process to select.”

Cellier’s rendition, which depicts the pipe as a transparent aquarium with various fish and underwater vegetation, was selected by TCPUD’s board of directors on Friday, July 17, but it wasn’t an easy choice, Althof said.

“We didn’t set the criteria, we just wanted something prettier than a brown-colored sewer pipe,” Althof said. “There was not a unanimous decision on this.”

Each TCPUD director was asked to rank the four finalists, and the artist with most points — in this case, Cellier — would be awarded the honorarium.

“To be honest, I was not all that excited about the art component to this sewer project,” said Erik Henrikson, president of the TCPUD Board. “But after seeing all the great proposals, I think art on the pipe is really a worthy effort and nice for the public.”

TCPUD officials were scheduled to meet Wednesday with Cellier, who has not yet been contracted with the district for the project.

The artwork will need to be completed within a two-week period, which has not yet been specified, Althof said, although it’s likely to take place sometime in September, prior to the pipe’s installation sometime in October.

Sprague said the high number of proposals for this project has her and the Tahoe Public Art team optimistic that future collaborations with TCPUD and other public agencies will go even smoother and draw more collaboration.

“They’re really pros,” Sprague said, referencing the collaborative efforts with TCPUD. “We’re really excited because it was our first major collaboration with the community, which was really in the driver seat on this one.”

The pipe project is expected to cost the PUD $1.3 million, which is coming out of the district’s capital budget.

All painting and construction of the pipe will reportedly occur far from the Truckee River, using environmentally friendly materials.

After the artwork is complete, an additional ultraviolet coating will be added to preserve the art as long as possible.

The pipe slated for replacement has collected 50 years worth of stickers, chewed gum and other forms of filth and has become a familiar site for those floating the west side of the Truckee River during the summer.

Pipe disposal will be the responsibility of the contractor and will be part of the project bid, Althof said, which is scheduled to be awarded July 30.

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