The west county art and design team Wowhaus (think “wow-house”) has been chosen to create a public art installation for Coffey Park.

The budget for the art installation is $110,000, and it is due to be completed in summer 2020. The installation will have to be approved by Santa Rosa’s Art in Public Places Committee before it is installed.

Wowhaus consists of Ene Osteraas-Constable and her husband Scott Constable. The two have worked together as artists for 20 years, 13 of those in their Freestone-based studio.

A shared love of art and place

The couple met doing Peace Corps work in Africa, but they came to their shared career in the arts via different paths.

Constable grew up on Philadelphia’s Main Line. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Rhode Island School of Design. Constable has taught and lectured at diverse schools and institutions, including the California College of the Arts. He is also the founder and author of Deep Craft, a popular weblog.

Osteraas-Constable, a native New Yorker, accompanied her parents at age 8 while they collected oral histories in west Africa. According to the Wowhaus website, this formative experience contributed to her interest in cultural identity and oral traditions. Ene has worked in a variety of media, including photography, audio and civic art, exploring how narrative shapes our understanding of place. She worked with the Public Art Fund in New York and was the first program coordinator for the Edible Schoolyard, the seminal organic gardening and cooking program founded by Alice Waters in Berkeley.

The Coffey Park project

Wowhaus will be working with the city of Santa Rosa staff and running workshops in Coffey Park getting residents’ ideas of what kind of art they’d like to see in their neighborhood. Osteraas-Constable is excited to hear from them.

She said it’s a special project that they’re honored to be involved with, because of how personal it is for people in Sonoma County.

“When you’ve lost so much, what gives you hope, brings you joy, gives you strength? These are the kinds of questions to be asking,” Osteraas-Constable said.

“Not only is there a sense of community, but also a great deal of skill and knowledge here. We enjoy working with local folks,” she said.“Though we may have ideas, our whole goal is to rather be open to hearing other folks in terms of what is this going to mean for them.”

The art needs to engage the imagination, soul and community, Osteraas-Constable said.

Wowhaus works with materials ranging from bronze, stainless steel, architectural glass, ceramic or mosaics.

They have done several large installations for both public and private clients. Wowhaus installed a 16-foot bronze sea monster at Lake Merritt Park in Oakland that will be unveiled in June. Closer to home, they have created environments like “House of Tree,” a small house on stilts, sited amidst redwood trees in west county.

Scott Constable created furnishings for Healdsburg SHED and is working on sculptural seating elements for the new Hotel Sebastopol, using reclaimed red gum eucalyptus.

“Our work is designed to invite interaction, tell a story and become a destination. In that respect, our work is site responsive,” Osteraas-Constable said.

Wowhaus gets inspiration from the nature and cultural history of the sites, as well as from listening from community members. When people ask what the design is going to be, they said it depends on what is learned from the discovery process.

“We specifically go with this site-responsive process, and that’s what we’re just starting on in Santa Rosa, which is really exciting,” Osteraas-Constable said.

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