First Step of Phase IV for ‘Museum Without Walls’ Sculpture Exhibition

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Visitors walk by David Boyer’s Getting Your Bearings at the Newport Beach Civic Center Park during the grand opening event on Oct. 28 for Phase III of the rotating sculpture exhibition.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The next phase of the rotating sculpture exhibition in the Newport Beach Civic Center Park is underway, as arts officials heard an outline of the upcoming program last week.

The City Arts Commission heard a presentation on July 12 from Library Services Director Tim Hetherton and Library Services Manager and Arts Commission liaison Natalie Basmaciyan. Commissioners didn’t take any action at the meeting.

Hetherton and Basmaciyan “provided an overview and update at the meeting,” explained Arts Commission Chair Arlene Greer.

It’s very early on in the process, but commissioners and art supporters are looking forward to the next round of sculptures.

“It should be very exciting to add additional pieces and take advantage of the ‘Museum Without Walls‘,” Greer said this week. “The City Civic Center Park is a prime location for public art, and the City Arts Commission looks forward to presenting our residents and guests with exceptional works of art.”

Although a timeline wasn’t presented at the meeting, Greer said they are looking at a grand opening in February 2019.

As this is a temporary exhibit, the 10 pieces comprising Phase IV will be scheduled for deinstallation in late summer or early fall 2020.

The artworks that are ultimately selected are to be loaned to the city and the artists are responsible for shipping their work to the Civic Center.

“To help defray these costs, Arts OC recommended and incorporated into the project budget, an honorarium for each artist, not to exceed $5,000,” staff explain in the report.

Honorarium amounts for previous pieces varied, depending on the artist, type of artwork, and where it was being shipped from.

Before the big unveiling, staff will create a plan for public engagement, implement a call for entry, review and select the pieces for the exhibition (which need to be approved by Council), and install the Phase IV pieces.

For Phases I, II, and III, the city selected Arts Orange County to provide public art coordination and site management services for the Sculpture in Civic Center Park Exhibition. The city has yet to identify and hire a project manager for Phase IV.

City staff is working on an request for proposals, Greer noted. The contract will be submitted to City Council for final approval.

After a contract is approved, Cultural Arts staff will issue a “Call for Entries”, inviting artists, private collectors, galleries and museums/nonprofit organizations to submit artworks for consideration for the exhibition. 

To select the pieces for the exhibition, the project manager will form a panel consisting of the Arts Commission’s Sculpture Exhibition Ad Hoc Subcommittee and three jurors who are working arts professionals. 

From the first phase of the sculpture garden exhibition, Ray Katz’s “Odyssey” looms over the Newport Beach Civic Center.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The panel will individually review all of the submissions. Each panelist then will score each piece through a private, online scoring process based on various criteria.

First, the judges will consider artistic merit. As the staff report explains, the artist should have strong professional qualifications and the artwork should be high quality and demonstrates originality and artistic excellence.

They will also consider the sculpture’s durability. It needs to be made of high-quality materials and withstand the outdoor elements of coastal Orange County. It should also require minimal maintenance.

Judges will also take practicality into account, that the “artwork is appropriate for audiences of all ages and does not exhibit unsafe conditions that may bear on public liability.”

It also needs to be appropriate for the Newport Beach Civic Park site and suitable to be viewed from all angles.

The committee will then tally the scores and narrow the possibilities down to 30 pieces.

“The jury panel will assemble to discuss each of the remaining artworks as a group and vote for the final selections in a public meeting,” staff explains in the report.

The panel will choose 10 artworks and three alternates, as well as suggest locations for each sculpture.

They will also tour the park to further consider “site sensitivities” like the need to protect habitat, the public view plane, and maintaining clear public access.

After the subcommittee gathers its findings and suggestions, they will present them to the rest of the Arts Commission during a regular meeting. Commissioners will discuss, possibly make changes to the recommendations, and forward it on to City Council, who has the final say on the artwork selected and placement.

The project manager will then notify each artist that his or her artwork is a finalist. After City Council approves the final 10 sculptures, the artwork is installed and a celebratory unveiling event is held at the Civic Center. In the past, many of the artists attend the grand opening event.

City Council first authorized the Commissions to implement a temporary, rotating sculpture exhibit in the park in 2013.

As the staff report explains, the temporary exhibition featured public art in locations previously identified by PWP, the landscape architecture firm that designed the 14-acre Civic Center Park.

Council approved the installation of 10 sculptures in year one of the project and additional 10 in year two. The pieces installed in year one were on display for two years and were removed and returned to the artists in 2016. Those installed in year two, 2015, were removed in 2017. After a one-year pause, the project resumed with the installation of Phase of III in October 2017.

Burnt Matchstick by Karl Unnasch, part of Phase III of the rotating sculpture exhibition at the Newport Beach Civic Center Park.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
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