Toma Villa, a registered member of the Yakama Nation, has spent the last year working on the sculpture for the park's Visitor Center, in honor of the National Park Service's centennial year. The sculpture is now a permanent feature in the main lobby of the Center.
Villa calls his work Spirit Pole.
The work features two poles, each carved from a single cedar log, interspersed with cast glass sculptural elements and carving on the surface of the cedar.
Toma began installing the work on April 23, 2016 and spent subsequent days working with his team on site at the Visitor Center to place the poles, finish carving the sculpture and add some color to the wood.
The Spirit Pole symbolizes the harmonious dance that creates balance in nature, and it focuses on the resources of the Pacific Northwest that have sustained people here for thousands of years.
The Spirit Pole is a touchable artwork, so visitors of all ages can experience it visually, through touch, and by inhaling the scent of the carved cedar.
Toma's portfolio of work includes murals, including those at Chief Joseph School in Portland and at Chief Kitsap Academy in Suquamish, Washington. He has experience in graffiti art, printmaking, painting, airbrush, sculpture and design. Along with artist Lillian Pitt, Toma works with school children in in the Columbia River Gorge teaching art, Tribal culture, the history of the Celilo Falls, and salmon fishing.
Toma's cast glass masks (like those in the Spirit Pole), limited edition prints and posters are available at the Friends Bookstore and Gallery, which is also located in the Visitor Center.
Photographs of Spirit Pole installation by Madya Panfilio © 2016, used with permission.