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Copper Sculptures Debut on San Pablo Avenue

The first two abstract works were installed on streetlight poles near El Cerrito Plaza Thursday by the artists and city workers. The remaining 10 works, to be placed as they are finished, will complete the city's most prominent public art project.

Thursday morning's sunshine provided a respite from the recent clouds and drizzle, but perhaps no one in El Cerrito made better use of the break in the weather than Berkeley artists Jonathan Russell and Saori Ide.

The pair had originally planned to put up the first two of 12 city-commissioned copper sculptures last Friday, said Ide, but had to put their plans on hold because of poor weather. With Thursday's sunshine, they seized the moment and headed to the intersection of Carlson Boulevard and San Pablo Avenue with two of the copper sculptures they created.

First raised was the sculpture that had been temporarily installed near City Hall back in October, in connection with a city arts celebration.  Ide took pictures from below as Russell and city worker Fernando Herrera used a bucket truck to install first the C-shaped steel frame and then the copper sculpture on a streetlight pole on the west side of San Pablo Avenue across from Pier 1 Imports.

The team then moved along San Pablo to the other side of the Plaza entrance to install a globe-shaped sculpture on the east side of the avenue in front of Macaroni Grill.

No specific date is set for the installation of the other 10 sculptures, but Russell said they are in production and will be installed two at a time as they are completed.

The C-shaped frame for the sculptures is 4-1/2 feet in diameter and weighs about 35 pounds, according to Russell. The weight of the copper sculptures will vary, with the first one installed weighing 31.5 pounds, he said.

Ide and Russell's proposal was chosen in Feb. 2009 by a city-selected committee from 17 proposals for a $100,000 commission from the city to create the sculptures as the public art component of the San Pablo Avenue Streetscape Project. The $6.6-million streetscape project is essentially complete except for the art, which has been delayed more than two years, largely because of earlier disagreement over what direction it would take.

They won final approval from the city's Arts and Culture Commission in March of of this year.

Funding for the project results from the city's Art in Public Places Ordinance, adopted by the City Council in 2005, requiring that new projects costing $250,000 or more devote at least one percent of the development costs to public art. It is Chapter 13.50 in the city's Municipal Code.

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Elizabeth Whipple December 28, 2012 at 06:22 PM
The artwork sounds terrific, but I wonder how long it will remain in place. Thieves steal valuable metal for resale every day. I hope the ECPD will provide some serious security devices to protect the sculptures.
Toni Mayer December 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM
I saw the one on the west side of the street as we drove down San Pablo this afternoon. Didn't have a chance to look closely.
Magenta December 29, 2012 at 07:41 PM
in reference to Toni's comment above; i sure hope that is not going to be the overall result of all the hullabaloo and the huge taxpayer/city expense of this art project.....that no one really notices or appreciates them. Let's let alone the separate issue- what or how do these abstract sculptures contribute to the city identity?
John Stashik December 31, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Should have had local artists design the doo-dads instead of Berkeleyans. Shop locally is what people say but not what they actually do. Maybe we could have picked them up at Costco and saved a few bucks.

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