Newport Beach may not be known as the City of the Arts, but there is certainly an abundance of art in our city.
Perhaps the most prominent is the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park, which boasts a rotating exhibit of 20 artworks of various styles, shapes and sizes.
The concept dates back to when renowned landscape architectural firm Peter Walker and Partners (PWP) designed the park to coincide with the opening of the new Civic Center on Avocado Avenue.
The Newport Beach City Arts Commission had been researching ideas for displaying public art in the park, and looked at examples in San Diego and Palm Desert, among others. Arts Commissioner Robert Smith spearheaded the Arts in Public Spaces subcommittee.
The Arts Commission determined that a rotating exhibition, in which pieces are loaned for a two-year period, was an optimal approach to bring sculpture to the City in a cost-efficient manner. In 2013, the Newport Beach City Council authorized the Arts Commission to implement an inaugural rotational sculpture exhibit in Civic Center Park.
Phase VII of the Sculpture Exhibition opened last month. Ten new artworks were installed to take their place among the Phase VI sculptures, which will be in the park until June, 2023.
At the dedication ceremony, Mayor Pro Tem Noah Blom spoke about the importance of art in Newport Beach.
“I grew up in Newport Beach and my parents were photographers, so I have always bene involved in this side of the city,” Blom told the audience gathered in the City Council chambers. “I have always seen the way that art can change any perspective. The arts have no quantifiable value beyond how we feel, but life is worth so much more than what is quantifiable.”
Blom noted that “Newport is one of those places where we stand on how fiscal conservative we are, but then secretly we keep adding more art. There is so much proof that people love it. This city is one of those places where we believe in the arts, we want to see more and more of it. On behalf of the City Council of Newport Beach, I hope to have many more of these openings, and find more place in the city to place new pieces of art.”
“It’s so refreshing and inspiring to hear the Mayor Pro Tem speak so passionately about the arts, and how important it is to civic life,” said Richard Stein, president and CEO of Arts Orange County, which has provided professional services for the coordination of the artist selection and installation of the sculptures dating back to the inaugural sculpture exhibition.
Stein quashed a rumor that his organization selects the works of art, explaining that the exhibition belongs to the people of Newport Beach. Submission of four dozen artworks from artists were accepted last fall, then a jury narrowed those down to 25. Then a poll was opened for residents of Newport Beach to select the final 10 artworks for the exhibition.
According to Stein, 3509 residents participated in the poll, and the 10 highest scoring works were designated as being accepted, although one top 10 vote getter suffered damage en route to the exhibition so an alternate work was selected.
The artworks in Phase VII:
- “Eve” by Joe Forrest Sackett, Albuquerque, NM
- “Pathway Parabola” by Greg Mueller, Lutsen Mountain, MN
- “Where Have All The Birds Gone?” by Marguerite Elliot, Fairfax, CA
- “Pluma Sculptura,” a.k.a. “The Feather” by Kirk Seese, Lutherville-Timonium, MD
- “To The Moon” by Alex G, Vista, CA
- “Prey” by Mr. & Mrs. Ferguson, Alameda, CA
- “Archeology of the Everyday” by Tyler Burton, Palm Springs, CA
- “A Novel Idea” by Craig Gray, Key West, FL
- “David” by Miggy Buck, New York, NY
- “Cross-Section” by Tim DeShong, Caratunk, ME
Admission is free, and the exhibition continues to be enjoyed by residents and guests of all ages. Parking is free in the Civic Center parking structure.
According to the city’s website, the exhibition has become a “museum without walls” that offers the temporary display of public art in a unique, naturalistic setting. Moreover, the City is able to exhibit a well-balanced representation of public art, with artistic merit, durability, practicality, and site responsiveness as criteria in the selection of work. The rotational nature of the exhibit ensures that residents and guests are exposed to a variety of work.
Selected sculptures are on loan to the City of Newport Beach for two years. Sculptors, whose artworks are chosen for installation in Civic Center Park, receive a small honorarium. The City is responsible for installing the art, while artists are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their work.
The outdoor exhibition attracts an audience of all ages, including schoolchildren, the local community, and visitors from Southern California and beyond.
For more information, visit https://www.newportbeachca.gov/government/departments/library-services/cultural-arts./