Memories of Blue

Project Description

Primary Sculpture: “Memories of Blue”
Bronze, Stainless Steel, Cobalt Glass,& Natural Granite
17′ x 10′ x 8′
5.25 x 3.05 x 2.44 Meters

Fallen Sculpture: “For All They Gave”
Bronze, Polished & Natural Granite
17′ x 10′ x 8′
5.25 x 3.05 x 2.44 Meters

Line: “The Thin Blue Line “
Cobalt Glass with poetry by Detective Randi Goetz
89′ x 5″
27.14 x .127 Meters

Substation Pieces: “Tribute in Blue “
Curvilinear Stainless Steel & Cobalt Glass
89′ x 5″
27.14 x .127 Meters

Since 1885, the Tacoma Police Department has had a 120 year history of pride and dedication. In all this time they have only lost 10 officers in the line of duty. Up until now, they haven’t had an official memorial for those courageous officers, but that is in the process of changing.

In August of 2005, James Kelsey won a design competition and was awarded the commission to create something worthy of the long history and sad losses of the Tacoma Police Department. In June of 2006, the final piece of this major work was installed.

The following is a break down of the different elements that make up this entire project. I begin my description with ‘the thin blue line’, which is my inspiration for this entire project:


“The Thin Blue Line “, is a term that has been used by police officers for as long as can be remembered. It refers to the traditional blue police uniform, and, in a very real way, the police officers themselves *ARE* that line between the criminals & rest of us, between good & evil, and between right & wrong.

This memorial is to those who have lost their lives holding this ‘thin blue line’ in order to protect us all. To establish this idea, figuratively and literally, there will be a 89-foot long line through the courtyard of the T.P.D. Headquarters created from recycled, cobalt-blue glass. This glass line is set into the concrete and runs from Pine Street, past the primary sculpture, ending at the memorial courtyard.


Initially, I had thought the deep blue line would suffice for this portion of the memorial, but I decided it needed something more. The line ends at the memorial courtyard, a place surrounded by trees. . . quite. . . contemplative, but due to the many trees and plantings that will surround the courtyard, it may not be noticed as people pass by, and I felt it was important to pull Tacoma citizens in. In order to do this, a call for writers throughout the city was made. We received over 30 entries, and, as they came in, we took away anything that would identify the writer, so we would not be biased in our selection. In the end, we all chose the same poem, “Thin Blue Line”, by Detective Randi Goetz. There were many incredible entries, but we were elated when we discovered that the best of the best was one of the Tacoma Police Department’s own. You can read her poem here.

Initially, the primary sculpture was to be located within the memorial courtyard, but after seeing the design, the selection committee asked if I would be willing to move it to the Front of the department. This meant I had to come up with a new sculpture for the courtyard. I based “For All They Gave ” on the primary sculpture. It uses the same bronze elements, but they lay flat, representing a collapsed version of the original. A large slab of polished black granite is placed on this bronze and has been engraved with not only the names of the officers, but with their stories. I realized that the people visiting this memorial may never remember the names and dates of the officers, but the stories of HOW they died will stay with many people forever.

THE PRIMARY SCULPTURE (pictured at top as well as under this paragraph):

The main abstract sculpture for this tribute is something quite unusual for a memorial of this kind, and I think it distinguishes Tacoma as being something special. While the piece is abstract, it would more accurately be described as “representational abstraction”; the Bronze form is that of a person stepping onto a rock (or climbing a mountain . . . struggling. . . ) The person has their hands up and in front of themselves holding something, or, more specifically, releasing something.

The stainless steel represents the wind. Held within it are broken shards of the thin blue line. . . shards of those who have fallen. We hold our hands up above us, not in surrender, but in search of strength; we open our hands as the wind takes our fallen; we let go, but the permanence of the sculpture itself represents the fact that we will never forget.


The last portion of my project involves the five police substations located throughout Tacoma. There are simple, wall-mounted sculptures in each of these neighborhood gathering places. I used the upper portion of the main sculpture as my inspiration for these pieces by combining the curved and polished stainless steel with the shards of cobalt blue glass. Officers and community members will have to work daily with these pieces of art in their space, and I didn’t want something oppressive or depressing, instead, while having a tether to the true memorial, these sculptures will be light, and bright, and uplifting, and, I hope, inspiring as well.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people involved in this project, not only those who have given me this opportunity, but all of the Tacoma Police Officers who have helped me and all of the Tacoma city officials who helped this project succeed.


Project Details

  • Project Category:
  • Public and Corporate Collections,