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The Welcoming Pole moves one step closer to its College Center home

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Its once vibrant colors have been muted by the sun, and the cedar pocked with fist-sized holes by woodpeckers. But the 30-foot totem pole that once stood watch over a grove of fir trees on the north side of PCC’s Sylvania Campus is now one step closer to its new home, where it will enjoy both protection from the elements and more visibility.

As part of the remodeling and construction funded by the PCC Bond Program, “The Welcoming Pole” was painstakingly moved by crane Nov. 1 from its temporary location outside the HT Building to an indoor space on the south side of the new entry area to the College Center.

Richard Hunt, the totem’s artist, recently arrived on campus and is currently fixing the woodpecker holes, repainting and performing other restoration work. The pole then will be erected in its new home inside the two-story atrium that is being built as the main entrance to the College Center.

The totem will be the focal point for the atrium, which is expected to be complete by January 2015. The new entry’s dramatic, modern lines and generous windows will allow the totem to be seen from the outside as well as the inside of the building.

“We had to provide a space that would not crowd the totem visually,” said GBD Architects’ Keith Skille. And given the totem’s significance as “The Welcoming Pole,” “to have it in the position in the new front door to the CC building is a logical location.”

Skille said that the new site will allow the totem to be seen and appreciated by more people than in its previous home. “Right now (the atrium) just looks like a big vestibule. But when we’re done with the renovation of the building it will be a vibrant, active space,” said Skille.

The totem was commissioned by PCC and first installed in 2001. Richard Hunt, a noted fourth-generation Kwa-Gulth (Kwakiutl) artist in British Columbia, carved the single log of red cedar largely with hand tools using traditional techniques, and painted it with house paint.

The Welcoming Pole depicts the imposing visages of an eagle, bear, serpent, and man holding a salmon. It was inspired by the ceremonial crests of the Hunt family of Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. Learn more about each of the PCC totem’s images here.

Since it was first erected on campus, the pole has been an important visual feature, welcoming visitors and serving as a reminder of the school’s cultural awareness of indigenous people.

But after standing outdoors for a decade, the pole suffered the ravages of birds, insects, rain and sun. Hunt traveled to PCC in 2010 to restore the totem, patching holes and applying new paint. Since then, the elements have once again damaged the pole.

The totem was taken from the grove of fir trees and laid alongside the HT Building, where it spent several weeks drying out under the eaves. Santana Crane Co. did both the initial move and the recent move to the CC building. According to owner John Santana, the pole weighed 800 pounds less after drying out and now weighs 3,000 pounds.

PCC’s 2008 voter-approved $374 million bond program is increasing opportunities for residents to access quality, affordable higher education close to where they live and work. Additional classrooms, updated equipment and technology, and advanced workforce training programs are helping to pave the way for future employment options. For more information, visit www.pcc.edu/about/bond/about.