Ben Carlson Statue Approved for McFadden Square

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Rendering of the Ben Carlson statue to be placed in McFadden Square. — Artist rendering courtesy city of Newport Beach
Rendering of the Ben Carlson statue to be placed in McFadden Square.
— Artist rendering courtesy city of Newport Beach

Nearly a year after Benjamin Carlson, a longtime Newport Beach lifeguard, lost his life while rescuing a swimmer in distress, the Newport Beach city council this week approved a statue honoring Carlson to be placed in McFadden Square near the new lifeguard station that bears his name.

It’s been a long journey for the members of the Ben Carlson Memorial and Scholarship Foundation to bring the spirit of the late lifeguard back to Newport Beach. With the conclusion of their recent fundraiser at the Balboa Bay Club, the foundation has raised over $132,000, exceeding their goal for Carlson’s memorial.

Jake Janz, brother-in-law to Ben and the driving force behind the foundation, described the tremendous support the family has received from the community as “so wonderful during this unusual time of [our] lives.”

There were several requirements proposed by the city’s arts commission that the foundation had to meet before the memorial was recommended to the city council. Private funding for the statue, a maintenance plan and an appropriate location had all met with the commission’s approval.

“Ben’s story takes place in the water,” Janz had told the arts commission last week. “And it’s here at the pier we want to place the statue to represent Ben’s heroism for lifeguards everywhere.”

Well-respected by the community, Carlson worked as a lifeguard for the Newport Beach Fire Department from the age of 17. Last July 6, Carlson, 32, died saving the life of a swimmer who was struggling in the turbulent ocean water.

At the council meeting, Mayor Edward Selich noted that the support from the community for the Carlson family was tremendous, something he had never seen before.

“On top of my condolences to the family for their loss, I think this will be a long lasting tribute and memorial to that unfortunate day in our city.”

City council member Tony Petros was moved by how the Carlson family humbly and respectively had embraced the community after experiencing such a tragic loss.

“I have learned volumes from the unity of the Carlson family. I am grateful and you have my support.”

Richard MacDonald, a world-renowned sculptor, had originally reached out to Janz and told him with today’s technology, Janz himself could sculpt the statue. This would gave the statue a more personal touch, but also eliminate the cost of engaging an artist and help with fundraising efforts.

Though not a traditional sculptor, Janz digitally created the design using images taken from Carlson’s GoPro camera for reference. It was both emotional and inspiring for Janz to look through the videos.

“He just did life,” said Janz. “I have footage of him diving off a boat, riding his bike. Images of him in all different angles that helped me sculpt him.”

Part of the development of the statue involves handing over a 3D print to ADM Works, a high-technology fabrication company in Santa Ana that will cast the statue. A marine grade stainless steel was chosen that withstands corrosions and requires minimal upkeep.

According to Javier Valdivieso of ADM, the statue would only need a wipe down with a rag and water once a month.

The area where the statue is to reside will have lighting at night and a proposed minimally landscaped area designed pro bono by Lifescapes International. Valley Crest also has donated their services for installation of the greenery.

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