Sphere on its Way to Permanently Call Civic Park Home

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A guest checks out Ivan Mclean’s Sphere 112. — Photo by Sara Hall ©
A guest checks out Ivan Mclean’s Sphere 112.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Sphere 112, the steel sculpture that appears to be rolling down the grassy hill at the corner of San Miguel Drive and Avocado Avenue and was part of phase one of the rotating sculpture exhibit, may soon be a permanent sight in the park.

The Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to recommend the permanent placement of Sphere 112 in Civic Center Park. Chairman Walt Howald and Commissioners Ron Cole and Roy Englebrecht were absent.

“I know this is a matter of personal taste, (but) I happen to like it very much,” said Commissioner Kathy Hamilton.

The purchase cost is taken care of and the maintenance is budgeted, she continued, so it sounds like a good idea.
It will be purchased privately by the Newport Beach Arts Foundation at a cost of $15,000 and donated to the city, explained Library Services Director Tim Hetherton. The annual maintenance costs would total approximately $250, which would be paid out of a cultural arts account, he added.

“It’s a very generous offer of the Newport Beach Arts Foundation to offer the city this sculpture,” said Arts Commission Chair Arlene Greer.
Sphere 112 was installed in August 2014, as part of the first phase of the sculpture exhibition.

The garden park is “absolutely sensational,” said PBR Commissioner Laird Hayes said. “I love all the pieces.”
Sphere 112 was the favorite piece among attendees at the grand opening of the exhibit, Hetherton noted.

Artist Ivan McLean assembled the piece from stainless steel rods of various shapes and sizes selected randomly and welded together. The piece was named for the size of its diameter, 112 inches.
It’s been popular with park visitors, Hetherton said. Arts Commissioner Robert Smith also pointed out that the Sphere has been used by the media as the face of the sculpture exhibit.

Although what visitors see today is not the original piece. After being exposed to Newport’s coastal environment, the stainless steel structure showed evidence of oxidization by early 2015. The artist created a replacement piece, at his own cost, from the more durable 316 marine grade stainless steel. The new piece was installed in December.

A concern raised at the Arts Commission meeting in April, when the idea of permanently placing the Sphere was originally discussed and unanimously approved, was that the artist only made the needed changes using the new steel because he had an understanding that the city was going to purchase the piece from him.

Several other concerns were raised at the April 14 Arts Commission meeting, including that making a sculpture a permanent piece in the garden defeats the purpose that it is meant to be a rotating exhibit.

“That’s what makes it vibrant and dynamic, it’s that it’s changing,” said Arts Commissioner Lynn Selich at the April meeting.

The idea of the rotating sculpture was to maintain interest in the park and always have something “new and fresh,” noted resident Jim Mosher at Tuesday‘s PBR meeting.

It will also reduce the potential sites for new sculptures in the future, he added.
There are about 30 locations for sculpture in the upper part of the park, Smith pointed out. Another 10 or 15 spots in the lower portion of the park could also offer sites for future pieces, he added.

Sphere is particularly well suited in its current location, Smith said, but it could be moved elsewhere in the future.
There are other parks in the city where the sculpture might work better, a few residents and commissioners noted at both meetings.

There are other areas in the city that are underserved, as far as public art is concerned, Selich noted.

Selich also suggested the city come up with a policy as they move forward regarding the rotating pieces, to clarify on what grounds a piece could become a permanent display and whether it will replace a piece in the next phase or be an additional piece. So if the Foundation wants to gift another sculpture to the city in the future, an official policy will be in place, she said.

This is an opportunity to have both rotating and permanent sculptures in the garden, said Arts commissioner Rita Goldberg.

“I’m glad we’re getting some permanent artwork up this way because this part of town has been short on that,” she said. “I’m personally very excited about it.”

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