Newport Beach City Council Approves Artworks for Phase VIII of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park

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Four of the artworks that were approved for Phase VIII of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park (clockwise from top left): “Tulip the Rockfish” by Peter Hazel, “Efram” by James Burnes, “Kissing Bench” by Matt Cartwright, “Got Juice” by Stephen Landis.

At the Newport Beach City Council meeting on February 14, the council unanimously approved 10 sculptures and three alternates to be installed in the Civic Center Park as part of Phase VIII of the Sculpture Exhibition.

The City Council approval comes after the City Arts Commission approved 10 sculptures and four alternates at its January 12 meeting. Since that vote one of the top 10 selections became unavailable so one of the alternates was moved into the top 10.

The Phase VIII sculptures will be on display for a two-year period, with installation commencing this June.

According to the Staff Report, the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park is an integral feature of the Newport Beach Civic Center. The Civic Center Park, which turned nearly half a million square feet of undeveloped land into a new public park, was designed by the renowned landscape architectural firm Peter Walker and Partners, which developed a master plan for art in the park, and identified various spots in the park where art, particularly sculpture, may be exhibited.

The City Arts Commission determined that a rotating exhibition was an optimal approach to bring sculpture to the City of Newport Beach (City) in a cost-efficient manner. In August 2013, the Newport Beach City Council authorized the City Arts Commission to implement an inaugural rotational sculpture exhibit in Civic Center Park.

The acquisition program that the City Arts Commission developed for the exhibition created a model in which pieces are loaned for a two-year period (or phase). Sculptors of works chosen for the exhibition are provided with a small honorarium 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.

“Tulip the Rockfish” by Peter Hazel had the most votes of the submissions for the Sculpture Exhibition.

Admission is free and the exhibition continues to be enjoyed by residents and guests of all ages. 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. Borrowing the pieces remains a cost-effective alternative to owning and maintaining permanent public art.

On September 27, 2022, the City Council approved a Professional Services Agreement with Arts Orange County for $119,000 for Phase VIII of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park. This amount includes project coordination and management fees, in addition to installation and de-installation fees.

“Pearl Infinity” by Plamen Yordanov, one of the artworks approved for Phase VIII of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park.

Sculpture Exhibit Details

At the City Council meeting on February 14, Arts Orange County President and CEO Richard Stein addressed the council and explained that “we are the officially designated local arts agency for the County of Orange by the board of supervisors. We are an independent nonprofit, not part of county government. We have worked with Newport Beach for many years, and many of tour fellow cities throughout Orange County. This is the project that is closest to our hearts here on Valentine’s Day. This is a valentine to the people of Newport Beach who have embraced it since its inception and who have engaged in the process of selecting the coming year’s exhibition.”

According to the Staff Report, the City Arts Commission turned the selection process for Phase VIII over to the public. Through an online survey, Newport Beach residents voted for their favorite sculptures and selected the pieces for inclusion in Phase VIII. There were 10 sculptures and four alternates selected by the public.

Prior to launching the public survey, the City Arts Commission, along with a curatorial panel, consisting of arts professionals Lisa M. Berman and Matteo Tannatt, evaluated all submissions for Phase VIII at the December 8, 2022 regular City Arts Commission meeting. Only pieces that met the following criteria were included in the public survey:

  • Artistic Merit – the artist has strong professional qualifications, and the artwork is of high quality and demonstrates originality and artistic excellence.
  • Durability – the artwork is made of high – quality materials, requires minimal maintenance and can withstand the outdoor elements of coastal Orange County.
  • Practicality – the artwork is appropriate for audiences of all ages and does not exhibit unsafe conditions that may bear on public liability.
  • Site Appropriateness – the scale of the artwork is suitable for the environment and the artwork is suitable for viewing from all angles.

Using these criteria, the City Arts Commission approved 33 submitted pieces for the public survey.

The online public survey launched on December 10, 2022 and closed on January 10, 2023. The survey was publicized through press releases and articles in local newspapers and posted to social media and on Arts Orange County’s website, In addition, the poll was disseminated to the 19,000+ subscribers to the Library and Cultural Arts email distribution list and the City’s email subscribers for current news and topics of interest.

Once voting was completed, the  City Arts Commission had a validated total of 253 voters, casting 702 votes.

The top vote getters were “Tulip the Rockfish” by Peter Hazel, “Pearl Infinity” by Plamen Yordanov, “Efram” by James Burnes, “Memory of Sailing: by Zan Knecht, “Kissing Bench” by Matt Cartwright, “The Goddess Sol” by Jackie Braitman, “Newport Glider” by Ilya ldelchick, “Confluence #102” by Catherine Daley, “Got Juice” by Stephen Landis, and “Inchoate” by Luke Achterberg.

The three alternate selections are “One Another” by Maxwell Carraher, “The Seagull Has Landed” by David Holz, and “Metal Tree” by Pontus Willfors.

“We agreed the selections were the best we have seen in a long time,” said Stein. “There is a lot of variety, the public will really enjoy it.”

“Newport Glider” by Ilya ldelchick, one of the artworks approved for Phase VIII of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park.

Council Comments

After Arts OC Program Coordinator Nicholas Thurkettle walked the City Council through a visual presentation of the proposed Phase VIII sculptures, City Council Member Robyn Grant told Stein and others at the meeting that she holds the project in high esteem.

“I was the chair of the Arts Commission when this project was conceived at the request of the then City Council when they were envisioning what was going to happen here at City Hall and within the park,” said Grant. “I am very proud to be part of a community that supports this kind of art. It’s grown better and better over the years. This is a wonderfully valuable piece of our community.”

Grant thanked the arts commissioners that have worked on the project over the years, as well as the city’s Arts Foundation, which Grant noted is an important support group for the Arts Commission and for the city here.

She also noted that it was valuable to have community input into the sculptures that go into the collection.

“That wasn’t necessarily something that was in the original plan, but it seems to have really grown, and that’s wonderful to see the community vote. It really shows through in the art that is picked. So much of it is representative of what we here hold dear in Newport Beach.”

City Council Member Joe Stapleton thanked the entire team for their efforts, and commented that “I had the pleasure of sitting on the Pacific Arts Foundation so I understand the importance and the role that art plays in the community, especially in a city like Newport Beach. It’s a terrific effort. I love to see this.”

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