“Spirit Wings” Placemaking Project with Metro Edge and Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation

Sacramento’s creative community is soaring high in a new series of regionally-inspired landmarks that were officially debuted today. Spirit Wings, a product of two Sacramento-area community leaders and supported by Metro EDGE – the Capital Region’s most prominent young professional membership association and program of the Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation – is taking flight after the project was envisioned nearly seven years ago.


The concept for Spirit Wings – a series of seven sculptures that have been placed along the K Street Mall – was inspired by Sacramento’s original wetlands and native people. The sculptures will transform from bird to human in flight as onlookers view the pieces while walking along the one-mile stretch of downtown.


“This has truly been a labor of love,” said Megan Blackwell, one of the creators of the project. “It started in 2015 when Downtown Sacramento Partnership hosted an event called ‘Bright Ideas’ to activate underutilized areas of Sacramento.”


“At the time, we were heavily involved in Metro EDGE, the young professionals program of the Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation, and aspired to create an experience that resonated not just with the region’s young professionals, but individuals of all backgrounds,” added Phil Tretheway, co-creator of Spirit Wings.

The last seven years have been full of navigating the city’s permit process, hosting donor meetings to pitch for funds on a project that hadn’t even started, consulting with building owners, working with city officials to support the project and process, dealing with COVID delays and changes, and many more unforeseen challenges and obstacles.


Originally called Characters on Kay, the idea was simple: install a series of art sculptures through downtown that would encourage the walkable discovery of the city. The idea was an ode to the concept heard at the 2014 Metro EDGE Emerge Summit from Peter Kageyama called Mice on Main. Blackwell and Tretheway showed up to the Bright Ideas event with a folding table and their idea – all while dressed in chicken and bear costumes to showcase their placemaking concept.


“In the beginning, the city didn’t know what to do with us. We were proposing something that had not been done before and they wanted full plans for every sculpture which would have wiped out our entire budget,” said Blackwell. “Instead, they worked with us to treat each sculpture like a light fixture and created acceptable specs for our artist.”


In 2018 after receiving initial funding from Metro EDGE, Downtown Sacramento Foundation, and the DOCO Merchants Association, they put together a selection committee of professional artists, stakeholders, and community members who awarded the project to artist Garr Ugalde.

“It was important to us to follow a process that supported and honored local artists. We did an initial call for artists to submit their portfolios, selected five to receive a stipend to present a concept, and then awarded Garr the project,” said Tretheway.


They have been able to finish the project with additional funding from property owners who allowed the pieces to be installed on their buildings, Sacramento Tourism Marketing District, and Councilmember Katie Valenzuela.


“After seven long years, we can honestly say that it was worth it. This is our love note to Sacramento and we’re proud to have put in the time and effort to make it happen,” said Tretheway and Blackwell.

For more information about Spirit Wings, please visit www.spiritwings916.com.