The City of San Luis Obispo will dedicate its newest Downtown public sculpture at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7 at the intersection of Marsh and Higuera streets. The City will cut a ribbon and serve light refreshments; the public is invited to attend the historic event.
The 30-foot tall piece is the City’s first kinetic sculpture, and greets motorists and pedestrians at the intersection of Marsh and South Higuera streets, considered an important entrance to the city from Hwy 101.
“Olas Portola-Fuente Seca,” which translates to “Waves in a Dry Fountain,” was created by kinetic sculptor Jeffrey Laudenslager and light sculptor Deanne Sabeck. It replaced a fountain that was installed in 1967 by the San Luis Obispo Monday Club.
It’s the first large kinetic sculpture in the city and the newest of 70 public art pieces funded and installed through the City’s public art program. Other pieces include murals, mosaics, oil and watercolor paintings, utility box artworks, benches bridge railing and more.
The piece stands 30 feet, towering over one of the City’s busiest intersections and main entrances into the heart of the Downtown.
Designed on computer, “Laudenslager’s sculpture consists of geometric shapes, joined and balanced so that wind alone will activate them. Sabeck’s glass, meanwhile, adds splashes of color, light and reflection.”
Back in 2009, some 150 proposals were reviewed by an art jury, which narrowed it down to a single proposal. The artwork got its permits in 2010, the design was “slightly modified” in 2014 and the piece was built in 2016. It was finally installed just this past June.
As to what might happen to an artwork that moves with the wind, when the wind is blowing 40-plus mph, the City thoroughly reviewed the mechanics of the sculpture.
“All proposed Public Art for San Luis Obispo,” Melissa Mudgett of the City Recreation Department and manager of the Public Art Program said, “is required to submit engineering specifications, which are thoroughly reviewed by the Community Development Department prior to issuance of a building permit. Often special inspections are required during construction and a final inspection is required by a City construction inspector to ensure the piece has been constructed to code.
“Olas Portola was also required to submit all necessary engineering standard details and specifications as noted above, in addition to a wind-loading analysis [approved by City engineers], prior to issuance of the building permit in June 2016.
“Since 2010,” she added, “when the public art project was first recommended by an art jury, the proposed art piece has received several reviews and recommendations for project conditions by the Architectural Review Commission and final approval by the City Council.”
All of SLO’s public artworks are unique in style, subject and construction, and Mudgett said the artists were paid $125,000 for the Olas Portola sculpture, which covered everything “including but not limited to materials, travel, equipment, design, engineering, execution, fabrication, transportation, installation and inspection of the work at the site.”
Participation in the Public Art Program applies to every commercial development, and developers have a choice of either incorporating public artworks into their projects or paying an in-lieu fee.
“The City requires private developers to include public art in their projects valued at .5% of the cost of construction over $100,000,” Mudgett said, “Developers have the option to pay the art-in-lieu fee or to incorporate a comparably valued piece of art within their project. Collected art-in-lieu fees are then set aside and later used to fund eligible public art capital improvement projects in the City as approved by Council.”
See: www.slocity.org/government/department-directory/parks-and-recreation/public-art/current-projects for more information and a video of how the sculpture is designed to move.
– Neil Farrell