City Council Approves Management of Phase VI Sculpture Exhibition

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Sculptures in the Civic Center Park / photo by Chris Trela

One of the items on the Consent Calendar for the Newport Beach City Council meeting on July 28 is a contract with Arts Orange County to manage Phase VI of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park.

The Newport Beach City Arts Commission is requesting that City Council approve a contract with Arts Orange County for $91,436 for Phase VI of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park. This amount includes both project coordination and management fees, and is the same amount as contracted for Phase V.

The City Arts Commission selected Arts Orange County to provide public art coordination and site management services for Phases I, II, III, IV, and V of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park after issuing Requests for Proposals in 2013 and 2016.

Arts Orange County was established in 1995 as the nonprofit, countywide arts council of Orange County, California. Arts Orange County has been recognized by the California Arts Council as a model agency based on the quality of its work and has served as the officially designated arts agency and state-local partner of the County of Orange since its inception.

City Staff is recommending approval of the contract. The City Council followed the Staff recommendation and approved the item 6-1. Councilmember Kevin Muldoon cast the lone no vote.

Hurricane by Ray Katz

According to the staff report, there are sufficient funds in the Cultural Arts budget to fund Phase VI, which is budgeted at $135,000. Funds will be expended from the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park Phase VI account.

The City received a State of California Department of Parks and Recreation Local Assistance Specified Grant Funding in the amount of $500,000 for the Civic Center Park Sculpture Exhibition Phases V and VI, which will fully fund this project on a reimbursement basis.

The grant funds from the State will also cover concrete repair and rehabilitation needs at the site. Projects funded by the State grant must be completed by December 31, 2021—well after Phase VI is scheduled to be installed.

According to the staff report, the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park is an integral feature of the Newport Beach Civic Center project. The Civic Center Park project was designed by renowned landscape architectural firm Peter Walker and Partners (PWP), who developed a master plan for art in the park prior to the site being developed, and identified various spots in the park where art, particularly sculpture, could be exhibited.

After considering various public art programs that could be installed at the Civic Center Park, the City Arts Commission determined that a rotating exhibition was the best way to bring sculpture to the City in a cost-efficient manner.

Giant bunny in Civic Center Park

When the new Civic Center was dedicated in May of 2013, the 14-acre Civic Center Park was devoid of sculptures, save for the now familiar and much talked about large rabbit sculptures. However, that fall the City Council approved the City Arts Commission’s acquisition program, in which pieces are loaned for a two-year period. Sculptors of works chosen for the exhibition are provided with a small honorarium, not to exceed $5,000, to loan their work to the City. The City is responsible for installing the art, while sculptors are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their work.

Pieces are generally rotated into the exhibition annually and displayed for two years. Phases theoretically overlap for a one-year period so that 20 pieces are typically on display.

The project got off to a slow start due to the City Council approving the 10 sculptures in Phase I in May of 2014, about the time the Arts Commission had hoped sculptures would be installed. That actually occurred later that fall, when Phase I was unveiled on September 13, 2014.

A year later, Phase II was welcomed to the Civic Center park. However, it took two more years to get to Phase III due to ongoing debates between the Arts Commission and the City Council as to funding for the exhibition. Phase III finally opened in October of 2017.

Phase IV was also late to the arts party, opening in June of 2019. However, Phase V was back on track and opened in July, 2020.

According to the staff report, the exhibition has become a “museum without walls” that offers the temporary display of public art without the city’s obligation and expense of owning public art, although the Newport Beach Arts Foundation did purchase and donate to the city the sculpture Sphere 112 in 2017.

Pending Council approval, Arts OC will open a call for entry in early September. The call for entry will close in December. The public can vote on their favorite entries, which the Arts Commission will review.

In January 2021, the City Arts Commission will share their results and the public survey rankings. After a public hearing and input from the community, the Commission will approve 10 works plus several alternates. In February 2021, at a regular City Council meeting, the selected works will be presented to City Council for final approval. Approved artists are then contracted, and Arts OC commences the installation of Phase VI and the deinstallation of Phase IV in May. The Grand Opening for Phase VI is scheduled for June 2021.

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