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Streetlight Sculpture – Abstract Art Aloft At Last

El Cerrito's biggest public art project – 12 abstract copper sculptures mounted on streetlight poles – received a preview debut Thursday. One of the sculptures was installed next to City Hall for today's Arts Month "pARTy."

Now's your chance if you want to see – at least temporarily – one of the 12 abstract copper sculptures destined to be hung on San Pablo Avenue streetlight poles in El Cerrito.

The two Berkeley artists who are making the sculptures – Jonathan Russell and Saori Ide – put up the first one Thursday in front of City Hall. The installation is temporary, designed to serve as one of the highlights of the city's special two-hour arts fest – the Arts Month "pARTy" – that begins at 5:30 p.m. today, Friday.

Russell said they will take the sculpture back down on Monday or Tuesday for some polishing and finishing work. Completion of the first one means they can now go into full production of the other 11, he said.

"The first one is always the hardest one," he said.

"It's exciting," said Suzanne Iarla, the city's community outreach specialist, who helped coordinate Thursday's installation.

Iarla said there's no date set yet for the first sculpture to be installed on its permanent perch – at city's southern border with Albany – but that the city expects all 12 will be up by "early next year."

Each copper sculpture is designed to pivot on its axis with the wind. They will be set 20 feet above the sidewalk inside a steel frame shaped like a C, designed to resemble the relatively new steel C-shaped bicycle racks installed by the city along San Pablo Avenue.

The C-shaped frame for the sculptures is 4-1/2 feet in diameter and weighs about 35 pounds, Russell said. The weight of the copper sculptures will vary, with the one installed Thursday 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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For more background on the San Pablo Avenue public art project, you can see our past stories by clicking "San Pablo Avenue Streetlight Pole Sculptures" next to Related Topics below this article. For alerts on future stories on the topic, click the "Keep me posted" button below the article. 

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