Ben Carlson Sculpture Plans Presented to Arts Commission

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bencarlsonmemorialstatue_newportbeachA life size sculpture of Ben Carlson, the Newport Beach lifeguard who lost his life last year on July 6 while saving the life of a distressed swimmer, is one step closer to reality thanks to a positive response from the Newport Beach Arts Commission.

At the Feb. 12 Arts Commission meeting, Josh Yocam and Jake Janz (board members of the Ben Carlson Memorial and Scholarship Foundation) gave a proposal to the Arts Commission for a sculpture to memorialize Ben Carlson, the first Newport Beach lifeguard to die in the line of duty.

The sculpture design presented to the Arts Commission is by Janz, who is working closely with Rich MacDonald, Jr., a Laguna Beach resident and son of noted figurative sculptor Richard MacDonald.

Plans call for the sculpture to be manufactured out of either stainless steel or bronze in a silver or gold matte finish. The sculpture would be 9 feet tall, and is a strong and definitive form of Carlson as a lifeguard searching the ocean as he did for 15 years.

The sculpture would sit on a three foot tall granite base.

Janz is working with ADM Works of Santa Ana to fabricate the sculpture through state-of-the art technology, whichRendering+in+Progress_+Artist+Jake+Janz would help decrease costs.

Janz is the brother-in-law to the late Ben Carlson, and feels there needs to be more than a sculpture to the memorial. He explained the goal of the Ben Carlson Memorial and Scholarship Foundation is to promote ocean safety through an interactive module somewhere in the base of the statue. It would utilize RF technology and give access to the website via smartphones where Ben’s story could be read. It would also provide knowledge about rip currents and other safety features.

Finding the perfect place for the sculpture brings two proposed places: the Balboa Pier and the Newport Beach Pier. The memorial itself would not be located directly in the sand, but on a dynamic location by the coast. The foundation has received confirmation from Lifescape International they will provide all the required installation work pro bono. The locations are not set in stone just yet, and Janz assured the committee they would be invited to a landscape walk-through of the area before approval.

The Arts Commission had several questions pertaining to maintenance, durability and the possibility of making it life-size without pedestal to humanize the sculpture. It was even suggested for long term maintenance to establish an endowment to help defer costs down the road.

Janz did recognize they have allocated a restoration fund through the foundation to offer repairs and maintenance.

The Newport Beach Arts Commission approved Yocam and Janz’s proposal to be included in next meeting for review and possible action.

The Arts Commission consists of Rita Goldberg, Chair; Arlene Geer, Vice Chair; and Caroline Logan, Secretary; along with Judy Chang, Robert Smith, Charles Ware and Lynn Selich.

Staff members present were Tim Hetherton, Library Services Director; Dave Curtis, Library Services Manager; and Elaine McMillion, Administrative Support Specialist.


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  1. At The Wedge, of course! Big surf. Big crowds. Dangerous conditions. Prominent location. There is nothing commercial there. Anywhere else and it will be lost amidst the clutter of bars and touristy attractions. It would become a shrine at The Wedge.