Council approves next phase of sculptures at Civic Center Park


City Council this week approved selections for Phase IX of the sculpture exhibition in Civic Center Park.

Councilmembers voted 6-0 (Erik Weigand was absent) on Tuesday (April 9) to moved forward with the sculptures chosen by public poll and recommended by the Arts Commission for the city’s rotating “museum without walls,” as the program has been dubbed over the years.

Councilmember Robyn Grant thanked the library staff, Arts Commission members and Arts OC for their work on the project. She’s appreciative of all the hard work that it takes to make this happen, she noted.

“Once again providing this community with a wonderful cultural amenity,” Grant said. “It is an important piece of this Civic Center and we’re really pleased to see the caliber of the art is continuing to rise and that the relationship that we’re creating with the larger arts community continues to grow.”

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Photos courtesy of City of Newport Beach

The top choices – Top row, (L-R): “Gecko” by Doug Snider; “Interplay” by Peter Ambrosio; “Growing Wings” by Hilde DeBruyne; “Heavy Landing” by Vojtech Blazejovsky and “Natural Wonders” by Michele Moushey Dale. Bottom row, (L-R): “Glee” by Cindy Debold; “Trillium Bus Stop Bench” by Matt Cartwright; “Duality” by Giuseppe Palumbo; “Reaching Man” by Ron Whitacre and “Millefolium” by Catherine Daley.

The pieces are planned to be displayed for a two-year period.

The Arts Commission approved the recommended 10 sculptures and four alternates at their March 14 meeting, Library Services Director Melissa Hartson said at this week’s council meeting.

For this phase of the rotating sculpture exhibition, the commission and local arts professionals reviewed the submissions for artistic merit, durability, practicality, and site appropriateness and approved 28 pieces to be included in an online public survey. The survey was open from February 12 through March 11, with a total of 1,873 validated votes cast.

The top choices (after two were excluded due to durability concerns and a third was removed because it could not meet timeline requirements): Gecko by Doug Snider; Interplay by Peter Ambrosio; Growing Wings by Hilde DeBruyne; Heavy Landing by Vojtech Blazejovsky; Natural Wonders by Michele Moushey Dale; Glee by Cindy Debold; Trillium Bus Stop Bench by Matt Cartwright; Duality by Giuseppe Palumbo; Reaching Man by Ron Whitacre and Millefolium by Catherine Daley. The alternates are Cycles 3: Frogs, Bees, Birds by Peter Hassen and Time and Awareness by D. Yoshikawa Wright.

Gecko received the most votes (120) out of all 28 entries and is also the biggest piece in the upcoming phase, weighing in at 2,500 pounds. Snider, a San Diego-based artist, created a colorful bench from concrete, polystyrene foam and steel that sits five feet tall, 17 feet wide and six feet deep.

“My inspiration comes from the natural world around me, as well as from my travels and the cultures I’ve encountered,” Snider wrote on his website, adding that the ocean is a source of inspiration. “The compositions can be described as colorful abstractions that reflect a coastal community.”

He has several other pieces of public art, including another decorative bench located in Laguna Beach, in front of the Sawdust Festival grounds.

Coming in at a close second in the public poll with 111 votes, Ambrosio’s Interplay is another colorful piece. The eight-foot-tall, 150-pound sculpture is made from fabricated steel and painted with alcohol inks with a resin coating. The Tucson, Ariz.-based artist notes on her website that products are sealed for protection against the weather and have unique color enhancing finishes.

Ambrosio is passionate about creating “designs to produce art that brings joy into people’s lives while standing the test of time and the elements,” according to her website.

The third most popular sculpture in the survey (earning 96 votes) is another large creation, Growing Wings, which weighs about 600 pounds. The red butterfly-like figure is eight feet tall, four feet wide, and four feet deep. DeBruyne, an artist out of Cumming, Iowa, wrote on her website that her “abstract organic work reflects nature and the authenticity of the cycle of life.”

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Heavy Landing, by Los Altos Hills artist Blazejovsky, is a smaller piece that will be placed on a podium for viewing. The metal sculpture, made predominantly of stainless steel with some elements of copper and brass, will be finished in slate patina and pigment-colored waxes. The artwork depicts a dragonfly on a dandelion.

Another artwork that will be placed on a pedestal, is the small but heavy Natural Wonders. The bronze piece is only four feet tall by three feet wide and just over two feet deep, but weighs about 300 pounds. Edgerton, Wisc., artist Moushey Dale’s figurative sculpture depicts a child looking through a telescoping spyglass while sitting cross-legged next to a rabbit, both atop a turtle.

On the weight scale, the lightest sculpture in Phase IX is Glee by Debold, an artist from Lago Vista, Texas. Although it’s only 50 pounds, the seven-foot-tall stainless-steel figure stands out with its arms outstretched and one leg lifted. It’s meant to represent the feeling of happiness.

This phase of sculptures includes another artistic seating area, Trillium Bus Stop Bench. Cartwright, a Portland, Ore.-based artist, used aluminum tubing, cold formed mild steel pipe and flat bar, and stainless steel to create a 13-foot-tall flower, with the leaves doubling as seating.

Palumbo, an artist from Eldorado Springs, Colo., used steel and bronze to sculpt Duality, which depicts two figures on each end of a beam that’s balanced precariously on a large circle. The artwork is eight feet, six inches tall and six feet wide.

A neighboring artist from Laguna Beach created Reaching Man, which is in the form of a human figure stretching its arms up to a height of 10 feet and three inches. Whitacre sculpted the piece out of welded steel and coated it in automotive paint.

The final piece in the Phase IX for the sculpture garden is Millefolium, another tall structure at 10 feet. Daley, an artist from Windsor, Calif. formed the oversized, but minimalist recreation of millefolium, also known as the flowering plant yarrow, primarily out of stainless steel. According to her website, “the sculpture sways slightly in a breeze to create the effect of flowers nodding in a field.”

“My artistic goal is to create a vision of beauty in nature that will inspire the viewer to connect with the environment,” Daley wrote.

Pieces are loaned to the city for a two-year phase and sculptors are provided an honorarium.

As in previous phases, private funds in the form of a $10,000 donation from the Newport Beach Arts Foundation will be used to augment the total cost of Phase IX.

Late last year, the city entered into a professional services agreement with Arts Orange County for $119,000 for Phase IX of the sculpture exhibition. This amount includes project coordination and management fees, in addition to sculpture installation and de-installation fees.

The city is responsible for installing the art, while sculptors are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their work.

At the council planning session in February, there was discussion about funding, the rotation timeframe and potential changes to the program. At the October 24 meeting, there was some disagreement but council ultimately agreed to fill a funding gap of $24,000 for the Phase IX of the rotating art pieces by re-allocating money ear-tagged for another project (wrapping utility boxes).

The architectural firm that designed the Civic Center Park, Peter Walker and Partners, developed a master plan for art in the park and identified various spots where art, particularly sculpture pieces, could be exhibited.

According to the staff report, the Arts Commission determined that a rotating exhibition was an optimal approach to bring sculpture to Newport Beach. “Borrowing” the sculptures for a rotating program was found to be a cost-effective alternative to owning and maintaining permanent public art. The program was approved in 2013 and council directed the Arts Commission to implement an inaugural rotational sculpture exhibit.

“The exhibition continues to be enjoyed by residents and guests of all ages and sensibilities. In essence, the exhibition has become a “museum without walls” that offers the temporary display of public art in a unique, natural setting,” staff explains in the report.


Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.


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