Deceased artist’s work displayed at new Island Transit headquarters

Employees at Island Transit hang artwork designed by recently deceased Coupeville artist Roger Purdue. The piece is a collaboration between Purdue and local woodcarver Ken Skaley. - Nathan Whalen photo
Employees at Island Transit hang artwork designed by recently deceased Coupeville artist Roger Purdue. The piece is a collaboration between Purdue and local woodcarver Ken Skaley.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen photo

Weeks after passing away, a Coupeville artist’s influence is still alive and well on Whidbey Island.

Island Transit staff installed a woodcarving inspired by the work of Roger Purdue. He was a prolific carver who passed away last month from complications from Parkinson’s Disease.

The Native American-inspired wall-hanging was placed in the lobby of the transit entity’s new headquarters located on Highway 20 near Outlying Field. The rectangular-shaped carving measures 44 inches by 56 inches. Whidbey woodworker Ken Skaley consulted with Purdue and sifted through his work to come up with ideas for the wood carving.

The project cost Island Transit $4,500. Island Transit executive director Martha Rose said she had originally sent out requests for proposals for art work. After nobody submitted a proposal, she contacted Purdue, who eventually communicated with Skaley to collaborate on the project.

“We were beyond thrilled that Roger wanted to create a carving specific for us,” Rose said in an email adding a major focus of the project was to focus on local history and native prairie.

The carving is made of western red cedar with abalone shells and includes images of a raven, a Hamatsa bird, canoes and a group of warriors, Skaley said.

“It’s a compilation of four different pieces of work of Roger’s,” Skaley said.

Purdue was a longtime woodcarver who is also known for providing a new logo each year for the Penn Cove Water Festival. He was also a longtime teacher in the Oak Harbor School District and a pilot.

Island Transit officials held a brief ceremony marking the installation of the new carving. Joining Island Transit’s staff was Roger’s wife Sara and his daughter Grace, who drove from Mill Creek to attend.

“It’s beyond what I expected,” Grace said. “Dad would be so proud.”

In addition to consulting with Purdue on designing the art, Skaley also used Roger’s collection of Native American curved knives and adze tools to produce the carving.

“It was so nice to see Ken and Roger work together,” Sara Purdue said.

The carving is one of the finishing touches of Island Transit’s new headquarters campus, which was built last year. The expansion cost Island Transit more than $22 million. To help pay for that, the fare-free transit entity received a $17.9 million feeder State of Good Repair grant.

The funding paid for a 15,400-square-foot administration building, and a 34,700-square-foot maintenance bay. The expanded facilities are expected to meet Island Transit’s needs for the next 40 to 50 years.

Island Transit officials are expecting to hold an open house in May to show off the new headquarters.

Purdue’s work will still be seen in the coming months, and even years, as well. He was recognized in early 2013 for his efforts promoting the Penn Cove Water Festival; he donated 15 years worth of images that will be used as logos for the event’s promotional materials.

The water festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 10, in Coupeville.


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