Newport Beach may not be known as the City of the Arts, but there is certainly art in our city.
On Saturday, Sept. 18, the Newport Beach Arts Commission held the grand opening of Phase V and Phase VI of the Civic Center Park sculpture exhibition.
The grand opening celebration for phase V was delayed by a year, although phase V was installed in July, 2020. Phase VI was installed in June, 2021.
The celebration included a VIP luncheon followed by dedication ceremonies attended by members of the city council, the Newport Beach Arts Foundation, the Newport Beach Arts Foundation, several of the artists whose works are in the exhibition, and other dignitaries and community members.
The event was emceed by Arlene Greer, Chair of the Arts Commission. She noted that members of the Arts Commission are all volunteers who donate many hours to help promote the sculpture exhibition. She also thanks members of the Arts Foundation for their assistance in raising funds to support the sculpture exhibition and other art in Newport Beach.
Greer introduced Mayor Brad Avery, who stated that Newport Beach is always supportive of the arts.
“We always have the discussion of how we decide our budget,” he told the audience gathered in the city council chambers. “At the top is public safety and things we all need, but we also need art. There is no such thing as a great city without the arts. It’s so great that this town has the resources to support it, and the arts commission and arts foundation. It’s hard to do something like this, it’s been a long road, and a tremendous amount of work. It’s spectacular and gets better all the time. The council is supportive of this. The council sees the progress, and the involvement of so many people makes it easier to support.”
Greer then introduced Richard Stein, president and CEO of Arts Orange County, the independent nonprofit arts council for Orange Count that has been designated by the County as its official local arts agency. The City Arts Commission selected Arts Orange County to provide public art coordination and site management services for Phases I, II, III, IV, V, and VI of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park.
At the Newport Beach City Council meeting on Sept. 28, the council approved a contract with Arts Orange County for $119,000 for Phase VII of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park. This amount includes project coordination and management fees, in addition to installation and de-installation fees.
Stein explained the process of the selection of art and how Arts OC manages the sculpture exhibition installation.
Each phase of the exhibition includes 10 pieces, which are on loan for a two-year period. Each year, 10 pieces are removed and another 10 installed, so 20 pieces are always on view.
Stein acknowledged the role that former arts commissioner Robert Smith played in helping to establish the sculpture exhibition. Smith headed the sculpture exhibition committee during the planning of the Civic Center Park, and paved the way for the current successful exhibits.
Admission to the exhibition is free and according to the city “continues to be enjoyed by residents and guests of all ages and sensibilities.”
The city’s website notes that “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.”
The sculptures are created by artists from around the country, including several local artists.
Several weeks before the exhibition dedication, Robert Smith hosted a preview tour with members of a support group from the Orange County Museum of Art, which was in Newport Beach for many years prior to moving to Costa Mesa, where the new OCMA facility is bring constructed on the Segerstrom Center for the Arts campus.
Smither explained the concept of the rotating exhibition, and then took the group through the park to view the 20 artworks.
Smith described the individual artworks and related stories about the artists, which helped bring insights to the exhibition.
While Smith can’t always be at the civic center to lead tours, a brochure of the sculpture exhibition is available at the civic center, and more information is available on the city’s website at https://www.newportbeachca.gov/government/departments/library-services/cultural-arts.