Arts Commission Advances Carlson Sculpture to City Council

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A memorial statue of lifeguard Ben Carlson took another step towards completion last week when the city’s Arts Commission voted to recommend to the City Council that the city accepts the sculpture to be created and donated by the Ben Carlson Foundation.

The recommendation had dissenters.

Jake Janz with the Ben Carlson Foundation was briefly called up to the podium at the Arts Commission meeting to address concerns voiced by Commissioners Caroline Logan and Robert Smith, as well as Newport Beach resident and artist Miriam Baker, who created the Ronald Reagan sculpture that resides in Bonita Canyon Sports Park.


Logan was unsure whether the computer generated art proposed by Janz was significant enough for the memorial. Commissioner Robert Smith supported her motion to bid the sculpture out to other artists.

Rendering of Ben Carlson sculpture. — Image courtesy Ben Carlson Foundation
Rendering of Ben Carlson sculpture.
— Image courtesy Ben Carlson Foundation

The suggestion was touched off by Baker’s earlier comment that the sculpture proposed is not a work of art done by a human being (the work is computer generated). Baker explained to the commission that to bring life and feeling to a sculpture, it truly needs the human touch.

Smith suggested it goes beyond just being computer generated. He was concerned like Logan that other artists might have more interesting interpretations and be able to provide scale models of what it would look like.

Smith also wondered whether the current sculpture will represent the city of Newport Beach properly for the years to come.

Janz explained there was no other artist other than himself that could take on this task in honor of his brother-in-law, and that it truly goes beyond creating a sculpture. The foundation has a mission to do great things to honor ocean safety and to honor lifeguards everywhere. The Ben Carlson sculpture is intended to be that very representation.

Janz said the sculpture is self-funded and for raw materials alone, the foundation needs to raise over $100,000. Janz will not be awarded any compensation for his artistry. “It is something completed from my heart,” he commented.

Images taken from the GoPro Ben carried with him wherever he went has gone into the construction of the image, and Janz feels is more than enough to bring life needed to the sculpture.

After the discussion, the original proposal was approved for recommendation to city council with an amendment for periodic updates from the foundation on the sculpture and fund-raising progress to be forwarded to the arts commission.

Chair person Rita Goldberg said the city is short on representational art and that this sculpture [if approved by city council] will be a welcomed addition to the city.

According to the staff report, in July 2014, Josh Yocam and Jake Janz of the Ben Carlson Foundation submitted an application to the Newport Beach City Arts Commission with a proposal to donate a memorial statue of lifeguard Ben Carlson to the City of Newport Beach.

Janz, in conjunction with the Richard MacDonald Studio, devised the concept for the 9-foot memorial. The proposed work depicts Carlson in lifeguard trunks, holding a rescue tube in one hand, and using his other hand to shade his eyes, as if in perpetual watch over the coastline. The statue is expected to include an interactive, educational component about ocean safety, having been designed to educate beachgoers and foster an appreciation of the perils lifeguards face daily.

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