Sculptor Joseph Rastovich calls himself a metal wrangler. The work he does can be a little dangerous -- sometimes because of the sheer size and weight of his creations.
The 22-year-old Kennewick artist's latest project includes two 40-foot steel arches that welcome visitors as they enter the grounds to the new Reach center on Columbia Park Trail at the west end of Columbia Park in Richland.
Today is the Reach's opening day. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The impressive 14,000-pound beacons can be seen by drivers on Highway 240 along Columbia Park as well as boaters on the river.
The arches are made up of 10 steel sections welded together, with the help of Kennewick welder Tim Hammack.
The criss-crossing arches represent the sun and are the focal point of a science-themed project started by a group of middle school students from Three Rivers HomeLink in Richland, said Lisa Toomey, CEO of the Reach center.
"They were working on a solar system project and the sun is the first piece in the project," she said.
Sculptures representing the other planets in the solar system will be set up along the Columbia River, with Pluto miles away by the boat launch to the Hanford Reach National Monument near Othello.
Rastovich also said the arches act like a sun dial, casting shadows in the center of the sculpture at the summer solstice and equinox.
"I still have to install the sheet metal skin around the arches," Rastovich said. "We had a little trouble in the beginning that delayed me getting done before the Reach opened. The skin will make the arches more cohesive and I should have that done within the next couple of weeks."
An engineering error caused the delay. It took a few days to fix it before the arches went up in time for the grand opening this weekend.
Rastovich has a passion for big sculpture for reasons he doesn't quite know how to explain.
"I started early, at age 14, making big sculptures," he said. "And I asked my mom once if maybe I should make smaller sculptures, and she just said, 'Go big. You're good at it.'"
Both his parents, Michael and LuAnn (Ostergaard) Rastovich, are well-known artists. His dad is a sculptor and his mother a painter.
Joe Rastovich still lives at his parents' Kennewick home, saving up to buy his own place one day, which he plans to build mostly by himself to make it eco-friendly and to continue his organic gardening.
There is nary a challenge he won't tackle creatively, he said. When he was 14, he carved out his beloved grandfather's casket.
He enjoys building, creating, soaking up knowledge and learning new things.
"I love working because life's too short," he said. "If I were a dog, I'd be a border collie, and if I was a horse, I'd be a draft horse because both of those animals are driven and love to work too."
His current project is creating a 20-foot outdoor sculpture for the city of Tualatin.
To date, he has created eight pieces of public art around the Tri-Cities and beyond.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal