Volume 8, Issue 22  |  March 17, 2023Subscribe

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Council approves next phase of sculpture exhibition in Civic Center Park 


The next round of the rotating sculpture exhibition in Civic Center Park was unanimously approved last week by City Council and the 10 selections chosen by the public should be installed by summer.

Council voted 7-0 on February 8 to approve 10 sculptures and four alternates for Phase VII of the city’s temporary “museum without walls,” as the program has been dubbed over the years. The Phase VII sculptures will be installed in June and stay on display for a two-year period.

The open-air museum is the gift that keeps on giving, said Arts Commission Chair Arlene Greer, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s provided a place for people to come, enjoy the sculptures and recreate, she said.

At its January 13 meeting, the commission approved the artwork, as selected through a survey of Newport Beach residents and recommended approval to the council.

A lot of effort goes into a rotating exhibit like this, noted Councilmember Brad Avery. The pieces are complicated, valuable and some are very heavy and/or large. The logistics of actually getting it done is impressive.

“It’s yielding great things for folks in our city. It adds a certain pizzaz to our city hall site,” Avery said. “I’m just really pleased about it and I think this last iteration is exceptional.”

Public voters selected 10 new sculptures for Phase VII: A Novel Idea, by Craig Gray; Got Juice by Stephen Landis; The Archaeology of the Everyday by Tyler Burton; David by Miggy Buck; Eve by Joe Forrest Sackett; Where Have All the Birds Gone? by Marguerite Elliot; Cross-Section by Tim DeShong; Prey by Lisa and Robert Ferguson; Pluma Sculptura, aka The Feather by Kirk Seese; and Pathway Parabola by Greg Mueller.

The new sculptures will join 10 others already installed from a previous phase, while the art from two years ago gets de-installed.

The public poll also selected four alternates: To the Moon by Alex G; Integration by Jaydon Sterling-Randall; Calling the Four Winds by Dennis- Redmoon Darkeem; and Hoodoos by Joan Benefiel.

Richard Stein, president and CEO of Arts OC, has served as project manager for the city’s sculpture exhibition during every phase of the program.

“When you have all 20 on display, you’ll see it’s a very robust group of sculptures,” Stein said.

The rotating sculpture garden has proven to be very popular with the public, he commented. He often sees people viewing and interacting with the artwork, he added, some they don’t understand, others are “obvious and delightful.”

“It’s a very successful program and you should be very proud of it,” he said. 

Council approves next phase sculpture collage

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Photos courtesy of artists/City of Newport Beach

Phase VII selected sculptures: (Top row, L-R) “A Novel Idea,” by Craig Gray; “Got Juice” by Stephen Landis; “The Archaeology of the Everyday” by Tyler Burton; “David” by Miggy Buck; “Eve” by Joe Forrest Sackett; (Bottom row, L-R) “Where Have All the Birds Gone?” by Marguerite Elliot; “Cross-Section” by Tim DeShong; “Prey” by Lisa and Robert Ferguson; “Pluma Sculptura,” aka “The Feather,” by Kirk Seese; and “Pathway Parabola” by Greg Mueller

Stein provided information to councilmembers on each of the top choices for Phase VII.

Based out of Key West, Fla., Gray is returning to Newport’s sculpture exhibition for the third time with his A Novel Idea bench. The seat is propped up by oversized granite books that will feature custom carved titles on the spines.

Gray’s literary-themed bench ranked first in the public vote.

The book-based bench was initially rejected by the Arts Commission “on the basis that it is a mass-produced piece,” city staff noted in the report. At the December 9 commission meeting, Arts OC confirmed that Gray produces unique versions of the piece, both in design and content. Commissioners ultimately decided to include it in the public survey.

Gray will customize the sculpture for Newport Beach and has requested a list of book titles that can be integrated into the work.

His works Popsicles and Slices of Heaven were on display during previous phases of the exhibition. Both of these were also the people’s top choices in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

The second most popular piece in the public poll was from Landis of Loveland, Colo.

Got Juice, a 10-foot tall and 1,500-pound fiberglass, steel and concrete sculpture depicting a gigantic hand holding an orange. Viewers will be able to walk through an opening in the wrist.

The handy artwork was the Arts Commission’s top pick.

Palm Springs-based artist Burton’s The Archaeology of the Everyday is another tall and heavy sculpture in the exhibition, measuring 12 feet in height and weighing in at 200 pounds. The pillar is made up of concrete, resin, hydrostone, plastics and house paint.

“This is a really wonderful piece composed of recycled materials,” Stein said. “A very unique and colorful piece.”

Burton’s sculpture placed third in both the public and commission rankings.

Buck, a New York resident, crafted David, an extra-large version of just the feet from Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of the same name. The cement and steel are beautifully crafted, Stein commented.

“A very unique and fascinating (sculpture), and certainly a conversation piece,” he said.

The oversized feet of David tied for third in the commission’s ranking and placed fourth in the public vote.

There are going to be a lot of photo opportunities with the gigantic feet, Greer noted.

“(‘David’ is) just going to be amazing,” she said.

A red-painted steel plate piece named Eve by Sackett of Albuquerque, N.M., was another popular pick by residents. The 1,000-pound piece depicts several abstract human figures in a circle reaching toward the sky.

His Dude Ascending is currently on display in the park, but will be de-installed this year.

Fairfax artist Elliot’s Where Have All the Birds Gone? was the commission’s second choice, while the public vote listed it as sixth.

It’s a contemporary tower standing 15 feet tall with a steel bird nest and a couple of sculpted birds at the top, Stein explained.

“We’ll see if they attract some fellow feathered friends,” he said.

Cross-Section by DeShong of Caratunk, Me., is a smaller sculpture and will be mounted on a pedestal alongside the pathway on the other side of San Joaquin Drive. It’s less than two feet in width and height and is constructed from white marble.

It’s the cross-section of a wave, Greer added, so it fits right in with the coastal community.

Alameda-based Lisa and Robert Ferguson, who jointly use the name of Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson for their artwork, created Prey primarily from coins, Stein explained. It’s placed on a structural frame, he added.

The sculpture depicts an oversized eagle with its talons outstretched as if it’s about to grab its Prey. The large curved wings are structured with sheet steel and the body uses a high-density foam. Across the bird’s entire body are embedded pennies, nickels and dimes as the feathers. The beak is brass and eyes are made of glass.

Prey will be located on the grassy knoll where Nancy Mooslin’s colorful arches (Fractured Peace) currently reside.

“It kind of deserves its own space with some room around it,” Stein said.

It’s nice to have sculptures that will really engage visitors, Greer said, referencing a few of Phase VII’s more inviting or interactive pieces, including Prey.

“It’s so big that you feel that you are prey when you walk into the garden and you’re standing underneath that huge bird,” she said.

Pluma Sculptura, aka The Feather from Seese of Lutherville-Timonium, Md., is another colorful piece for the new phase of sculptures. The 10-foot-tall wielded tubular steel post features panels of different colors on each edge near the top.

It’s been a popular piece of art in other cities where it has been exhibited, Stein noted.

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The sculpture was also initially rejected by the Arts Commission for similar reasons to A Novel Idea, but commissioners ultimately decided to include it after receiving confirmation from Arts OC that Pluma Sculptura is a unique piece.

One of the few purely abstract pieces of art in the latest phase is Pathway Parabola by Mueller of Lutsen Mountain, Minn.

“It’s intriguing,” Stein said. 

Council approves next phase VII and VI map

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Map Art courtesy of City of Newport Beach

A map of where the Phase VII sculptures will be installed alongside Phase VI art currently on display in Civic Center Park

For the final 10, it was up to the residents to make the choices, he explained.

“These are not our selections, these are the selections of the people of Newport Beach,” Stein said.

Inviting the public to weigh in on the selected sculptures has proven to be very popular, Greer said. She was skeptical about taking it to the next step and allowing the public to fully choose the art to be installed, but it’s turned out well, she said.

“It has worked out beautifully,” Greer said. “It’s nice to have the public’s input.”

The commission was very pleased with how it turned out, she added. The public’s selections were similar to what the commission likely would have chosen, Greer noted.

“The public selected things that they felt they really identified with in the community,” Greer said.

It’s fantastic that the vote is now 100% up to the public, said Councilmember Diane Dixon.

“The people chose well,” she said.

There was some discussion about the public voting system and possibly better alternatives on how to structure the poll.

Citizens who voted were asked to select three out of all 25 options. The voting process is still evolving, Greer said. The “top three” system was intended to keep public voters interested without asking too much.

“You have people’s attention for only so long,” she said.

Councilmember Joy Brenner suggested changing it so people can choose their top 10 options. If the majority of people voted for the same three sculptures, it’s unknown how they would have ranked the remaining sculptures in the final 10, she noted.

Resident Jim Mosher suggested a weighted ranked voting system.

Council also discussed how to entice more California-based artists to submit their work.

They put out a call for artist submissions “far and wide,” Stein said. It was distributed to more than 100,000 artists nationwide, he noted.

“As the reputation of the program has grown we’ve gotten more submissions and better submissions,” he said.

There are still many sculptures coming from other states, Dixon noted, and wondered how they can encourage more California-based artists.

They likely need to budget more funds, Stein replied, as it’s more expensive to live in the state.

Although it’s cheaper to ship the art, Dixon noted.

There’s a limited number of sculptors and many only do commissions, Stein explained. Most sculptors don’t have an inventory they can use to submit to temporary sculpture exhibitions, of which there aren’t many, he added.

“It isn’t a huge market just waiting for all of these artists to submit to,” Stein said.

Brenner suggested highlighting that some pieces are ultimately purchased for permanent display, like The Sphere or The Chairman of the Board, which was donated to the city.

Knowing that might incentivize more local artists to submit, she said.

They include information in the call for artists that permanent acquisitions have occurred and also some works on display have been sold to third parties, Stein said. They can emphasize that more in future phases, he added.

Greer recommended promoting the grand opening event more directly to other artists in the Southern California region. Invite them to meet the current and past featured artists, she said, and that might incentivize more to submit into the competition.

“When they get here and they see the sculpture garden, I can’t imagine any artist would not – regardless of the honorarium – be inspired to want to present something for submission to the City of Newport Beach,” Greer said.

The Arts Commission again utilized private funds to augment the program. This year, the Newport Beach Arts Foundation donated $20,000 to Phase VII.

It’s a great example of a public-private partnership in the community, Dixon said.

After last week’s council approval, the next step is the contracting phase, which can take some time, Stein said. They then guide and work with the artists on shipping and delivery of the art.

Installation is slated to take place the first week of June, Stein confirmed. At the same time, the Phase V works will be de-installed. Phase VI, installed last summer, will remain for another year.


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

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