Friday, October 5, 2007

The Public Art and Conservation Internship Program Ends

The Public Art and Conservation Internship has concluded. Over the course of the Summer, interns conserved over 40 artworks in the Ventura Public Art Collection, restoring their vibrancy and ensuring that they will remain in our community in excellent condition in the years ahead.

The Public Art Program is currently exploring funding sources to make this an annual program for those interested in exploring the fields of Public Art and Conservation. To be updated on the status of this project, please contact

Friday, August 3, 2007

Conservation and Pepper Tree Garden

In addition to their conservation work, interns this week visited the site of a new public art project in the city--Pepper Tree Corner. Interns met with Pepper Tree Corner artists Katherine Miller (Professor, Pitzer College) and Andreas Hessing (Landscape Architect) to discuss the site and the future conservation needs of this environmental artwork.

The Pepper Tree Corner/ Booster Pump Station is a landscaped infrastructure facility of the City Water Division. Located in the Midtown community, the pump station functions to pressurize and 'boost' water into the hillside residences. percent for art monies. State law requires that these funds be used for artworks on the site of the construction.

Artist Andreas Hessing explains to interns Layla Windwillows and Bradley Barron how a new entrance to the site will be contructed out of rocks and native California plants. The rocks and plants will help to protect the site from existing soil erosion. Beyond the entrance a new strata landscape will mimick the structure and color of sedimentary cliffs.

Atists Andreas Hessing and Katherin Miller talk to interns about how native plants on the site will help to filter and clean water naturally as well as draw attention to the movement of water through the site. Native plants require significantly less conservation and maintenance than the existing plantings and are drought tolerant.

Artist Katherine Miller talks to intern James Norwood about the abundant water needs of the existing lawn. Replacing the lawn with a native plant species would reduce the amount of water needed to maintain the site over time.

Artists will continue to perform their geological interventions through the site through the summer of 2007. Plantings will be completed in October 2007 when there will be a community planting day open that is open to the public. All are encouraged to attend. To learn more about this project, please visit our website.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Before and After Conservation

Today's Ventura County Star featured an article on the Public Art and Conservation Internship Program. The article is located here.

Since the start of the program in June 2007, interns have conserved 18 sculptures along the Ventura River Trail, carrying out extensive work on Jud Fine's series of sculptures entitled, "Mark."

A typical marker before conservation.

The same marker after conservation.

The series of sculptures is significant to Ventura's cultural and industrial history. For each piece, USC professor Jud Fine, located old oil machinery parts along the Ventura River Trail. He solidified each into a concrete based upon which he inscribed a different definition of the word "mark." The machinery parts would have otherwise dissolved into the landscape. Fine's piece is significant in using these ordinary objects to tell a story about the industrial history of the area.

Fine's milemarkers are located along a over 6 mile stretch of the trail and are used by cyclists to mark miles and kilometer points along the route.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Importance of Public Art by Tobie Roach

Monday June 25, 2007 we participated in the City Council meeting. Our public art department representatives inspired a discussion about the achievements of our city’s public art program and admirable public art collection. After an outstanding presentation, Councilman Ed Summers spoke very highly of the public art department, public art projects and of our internship program. He brought up some important points worthy of reiterating.

  • The importance of public art as a means of historically encapsulating our identity as a culture
  • “Making our mark”, a means of visual communication
  • The public art of today is the ancient artifact of tomorrow

Tuesday evening’s Public Art Commission meeting also stimulated conversation regarding the importance of public art. We had the opportunity to observe the proposals of the soon to come painted utility boxes. Local artists were selected to paint utility boxes along Main Street in the downtown during the summer artwalk on August 18, 2007.

The proposed pieces will surely contribute to the beautification of our city. Until one attends one of these meetings (they are open to the public), one may not have an authentic appreciation of the necessary and tedious processes involved in calling for, proposing, choosing, installing and conserving public art. It is a time consuming task to which only those who truly love their city and love art would care to contribute.

Our weekly Wednesday afternoon intern meeting offered further discussion regarding this week's reading and the importance of public art. Cultural Heritage Preservation, Sites of Hurtful Memory uses examples of places of horrible memories to exhibit the challenges some conservationists face when confronted with ethical questions regarding certain pieces of art and memorials. The type of proper conservation that should be done was argued from opposing perspectives. Some of the examples that were given are listed below:

  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
  • Los Desaparecidos (the disappeared) at the Club Atletico in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    Topography of Terror, memorial in Berlin
  • Buildings at Auschwitz

So yes folks, you have it here. The signs were consistently pointing this week to the importance of public art. Whether we were out on the trail conserving mile markers, in city hall attending a meeting, or at the beach reading articles about ethical challenges that artists and conservationists face, the importance of public art is this, a way of “increasing people’s awareness of architectural assets in their community works to strengthen both social and cultural identity.”

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wending Our Way through the Underbelly by Layla Windwillows

Birds have an appreciation for the markers on the river trail and they demonstrate it with enthusiasm. The weathering and corrosion of the metal industrial tools contributes to the capture of guano and it can be a challenge removing it, even with the variety of brushes and sponges we use. Curiously, there was another type of splatter: red and dark green paint. That’s wild. It took quite a bit of elbow grease but we got the rust stains, guano, and paint off. Then we repainted the lettering. Odd that so many (but not all) of the markers have the letters painted with a dusty, pinkish paint.

Marker #6 verified this. There was paint spatter of the same color spotting the cement base (where the phrase: “A Sign or Symbol. Watermark” is etched). It took acetone to remove it and the puddle of baked on linseed oil coagulated at the base of the metal tool. The linseed puddles have been a common occurrence in the markers we’ve seen thus far, with the exception of #29.

Being that #6 had full exposure to the elements, its accumulation of “wrong” told a different story. Its surface coating was brittle. It was awkward cleaning it because the dryness (it can be very windy in spots along the trail) and sun baked the stains, oils, paint spatter, and guano into a stubborn enamel-like finish. Hercules would break a sweat getting this stuff off without becoming yet another erosive force.

Our efforts were well-rewarded this week: by the end of each project each marker GLOWED. The repainted phrasing stood out and was legible at a leisurely pace. The passing citizenry went wild expressing their appreciation. I’m still finding confetti in my hair. Another gratifying week!