Controversy over what will be the largest public art project in the city’s history appeared forgotten as arts commissioners and artists sat down together to examine renderings of kinetic abstract sculptures that will hang from streetlight poles along San Pablo Avenue.
Organic in shape and form, the sculptures feature copper shapes in various textures that rotate around a single axle within C-shaped arcs of stainless steel.
Berkeley husband and wife artists Russell Ide and Saori Ide have a $100,000 commission from the city to design and install the roughly 4 and a half-foot sculptures, which will hang some 20 feet off the ground.
Only three members of the panel were present at the when they narrowed 26 designs down to 13. All five were on hand at the El Cerrito Arts and Culture Commission meeting last night to make the final cut from 13 to 12.
Both artists and commissioners had a new piece of information to digest: Caltrans prohibits kinetic sculpture on the street side of light poles.
“At first I was horrified,” Russell said. “I’ve warmed up to it over the last 24 hours.” Suspending the sculptures only on the sidewalk side “could actually be quite fun,” he said.
The ruling is somewhat ironic since kinetic sculptures offer less wind resistance, which makes them safer, he said.
The commissioners voted to place the sculptures in two groups of six each. Before they settle on a specific placement, they will meet for a walking tour of San Pablo Avenue – a trek Russell said he and Ide have made “at least 100 times.”
“We’ve looked at literally every place you could put a sculpture,” he said.
The artists will present the panel with a final proposal in January that details costs and other specifics. Ultimately the plan will go before the city council.
The project is the long-delayed, public-art piece of the city's multi-year San Pablo Avenue Streetscape Project.
The commission and the artists have come a long way since the panel their first proposal.