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Panel Pulls Plug on 'Functional Artworks' at Recycling Center

The El Cerrito Arts and Culture Commission Wednesday night agreed with a staff proposal to scrap a previously approved plan for artistic shelves and gates as the public art component of the new Recycling Center.

Joining the jettisoned materials at the El Cerrito Recycling Center is a $24,000 in the form of shelves and gates at the center.

The Arts and Culture Commission Wednesday night voted to cancel the plan, which the panel had approved in February. The vote was 6-0, with commissioner Nancy Donovan absent.

Following the commission's , the city issued a call to artists but received only one eligible proposal. The panel last month in hopes of attracting more competition, but in the meantime city staff .

"We're proposing a change of course," the city's environmental services manager Melanie Mintz told the commission. She said the center has been unexpectedly busy since it opened April 23 with visitors on weekend days growing from about 350 from before to around 570 now. The staff would like get the shelving and gates installed as soon as possible.

At the same time, she said, the center's colorful signs and other visual elements are already plentiful. "We feel a public art piece might get lost."

"We're now thinking of making it off-site," she said, adding that one possibility would be to have it made from recycled materials.

"I think it's such a relief to hear you make that proposal," said commissioner Ed Franco. "... I think it (the Recycling Center) is so clean and nice looking now. Why mess it up with too much stuff?"

The commission asked whether the $24,000 that is available for the public art because of the Recyling Center could be augmented by part of the $46,000 in the city's public art account that was contributed by the new Safeway as its in-lieu contribution for public art. (Projects in the city exceeding $250,000 in costs are required to contribute at least one percent of the cost to public art.)

Suzanne Iarla, staff liaison to the commission, said some of the Safeway money could be added in.

The panel agreed to discuss possible ideas at a future meeting, and Mintz said the city "will move forward with building some shelves and some gates." The shelves are for the Exchange Zone shelter (where users can exchange used books and other items), and the gates are for the compost and mulch bays.

Peace Poles, ethnic identity on Ohlone Greenway

In other business, resident Al Miller gave a presentation for his idea to add "Peace Poles" and possible art along the Ohlone Greenway (BART path) to represent the city's different ethnic groups.

Each group – such as Asian, Hispanic, African-American, etc. – could have a different segment of the Greenway devoted to it, with the appropriate language or languages on the Peace Poles and art or other other elements representing that community and possibly describing its history in El Cerrito, he said.

A Peace Pole carries the message, "May Peace Prevail on Earth," in different languages on its four or six sides. More information can be found here.

The goal, Miller said, is "to focus on the diversity of our community as a unifying force." 

Members of the commission seemed supportive of the idea but indicated that they could not take action until a more concrete proposal involving art is presented to them. They suggested that Miller discuss the idea also with the city's Human Relations commission, whose mission includes promotion of multicultural understanding, and the Park and Recreation Commission, which advises the city on city parks, including the Ohlone Greenway.


Al Miller May 17, 2012 at 06:44 PM
CHarles, thank you for including the goal, "to focus on the diversity of our community as a unifying force" as part of your reporting on the EC Arts and Culture Commission. It seems a project like this, centered along the Ohlone Greenway our most used park, could be a great way for us all to learn about the contributions the various ethnic groups represented in our population have made over the years in creating the city we all enjoy living in. The timing seems right, too, with the entire Greenway being rebuilt as part of the BART earthquake retrofit program. If anyone is interested in this project, and willing to work on it, please contact me at amil@leonardoslab.net.
Cali F. May 17, 2012 at 11:49 PM
$24K for functional "Public Art" failed to attract but one artist because it asks for too much for what would be paid for what really was construction job. I doubt that you could pay a construction contractor to even build just plain functional shelves AND a gate for that price. The materials alone to build the numerous shelves and the large rolling gate would have consumed most of that stipend and the artist would be lucky to receive less than minimum wage for their artistic contributions.


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