Feature Article - September 2002
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Art Works

Adding interest, character and beauty to blank walls and barren spaces

By Stacy St. Clair

The art piece at Hilltop Park in Signal Hill, Calif., is "Hilltop Perspectives" by Cicchetti, Weir & Stone 1998 as commissioned by the City of Signal Hill.
How Great Thou Art

Unless you're one of the few recreation managers with a degree in art history, the process of selecting a sculpture or mural for public display can be a frightening prospect.

Relax. You weren't hired for your discerning artistic tastes.

When it comes to picking public art, look outside your recreation centers and park. Your community is filled with people with the knowledge—and passion—for picking timeless pieces.

In Dublin, Ohio, for example, the city depends upon a jury established by its arts council to select projects. It also solicits residents' input, so the community has a sense of excitement and ownership in the project.

"The jury finds the community's input invaluable," says Christie Rosenthal, executive director of the Dublin Arts Council. "It helps them decide what the community's looking for and what they would connect with."

Across the country in Signal Hill, Calif., city officials created a blue-ribbon panel of art experts—including area artists, university professors and members of the local arts association—to help pick their public art. The Signal Hill ad-hoc committee was charged with the daunting task of finding a "unique" piece of artwork that would reflect Signal Hill's character.

"We wanted something unlike anything we would see someplace else," says Kathy Sorensen, the city's community services director.

The city leaned heavily upon the Friends of Signal Hill Cultural arts, a non-for-profit corporation that promotes culture activities within the community. The corporation's connections within the California arts community helped attract 28 submission for the project.

In the end, the city selected a piece that includes several shadow art frames that allows patrons a panoramic view of Long Beach in the distance. It also includes art and pictures of Signal Hill‚ depicting past, most notably tributes to its roots as an oil-drilling community.

The piece, without question, was the distinctive artwork Signal Hill officials desired. The task could never have been accomplished without the blue-ribbon committee's advice and expertise, Sorensen says.

"That was the wisest thing we did," she says. "I would tell everyone to do the same thing."