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September 26, 2006 > The Path to public art

The Path to public art

by Julie Grabowski

Public artwork is growing in our cities, taking root in shopping centers, housing developments, and business areas, sometimes seemingly overnight. But how do these structures come to be? What journey do they take to arrive at their destination?

Union City receives four to six art proposals a year from building owners or architects wanting to include public art in their new building plans. They are required by the city to submit their ideas to a volunteer art panel comprised of four local artists and one city employee for approval. Each proposal is delivered with a certain art piece and location in mind; the panel is responsible for working with those ideas, visiting the building site to confirm the best placement for the piece and to verify that it is appropriate to the area. The panel also ensures that the proposal follows guidelines for public art, such as originality of art, the scale of a piece, tasteful design that harmoniously fits the space, safety of the community, and price range.

The cost of a piece of public art depends upon the cost of the building, and must be in accordance with the percentage of new building requirements. As in Fremont and other Bay Area cities, Union City requires that 1 percent of the construction costs go to fund public artwork. If the building owner or architect chooses not to include artwork on their grounds, it is mandatory to donate an "in lieu" fee, which is held in a city fund for future art projects. The price for public art pieces in Union City range from $5,000 to $15,000 and sometimes higher.

The artists behind these offerings are established and recognized figures in the art world, many residing in the Bay Area.  James Moore, Harry Powell, and Archie Held are among those whose work is displayed across the states and internationally, with pieces also held in private collections. The majority of Union City's public art is constructed of bronze or steel, materials able to withstand the elements and the course of years.

Along with establishing new businesses, many involved embrace the opportunity to contribute to the arts and to grow public art, to shape a corner of the community, to uplift and expand the spirits and imagination of its people. Picasso said, "Art washes away the dust of every day life." The following pieces of Union City public art do just that.

"Art Form" by Unknown
San Marino Plastering, 33363 Lewis (right off Western)
This stainless steel sculpture reveals a modern perspective of the plastering industry with 7' high panels covered in designs of cobalt blue glass. The structure is 4' in diameter and anchored to an 8' x 8' wide cement base.

"Athlete" by James Moore
Union Landing, Sportmart
A human figure crafted of layered molten metal stands on the concrete walk prepared for play, a white ball raised above his head. The statue is hand painted blue with variegations of red, white, and yellow, and measures 92" x 24" x 25".

"The Crane" by Joseph F. Spear
Neo Center Professional Building, corner of Decoto Road and Union Square
The artist combines his passion for sculpture and the Japanese art of Origami with this piece comprised of folded steel metal sheets. It stands 4' tall on pedestals of 2'.

"Feast of Wonder" by Ed Haddaway
Union Landing, Courthouse Drive Complex
These two sculptures take you to lands of imagination with their magical storybook feel. Constructed of painted forged steel, red chairs and unexpected sproutings rise close to16 feet high and measure about 6' to 8' in diameter.

"Filmstrip" by Tony Majors
Union Landing, Century Theatre
Standing on an oval concrete base, a steel clip of filmstrip is rescued from the floor of a projection booth. It runs 7' long and stands 24" high and bears a frolicking frog, dolphin, and seal sandblasted into the metal.

"Galaxy" by Harry Powell
Wisteria Place at Eden Housing, Alvarado Niles Boulevard and Oregon Street
Twenty-five cast aluminum fragments sweep across a 5' high 12' long concrete and stucco wall creating a galaxy-like scene.

"I'm Thirsty" by Dominico Franceso
Dr. Mann Veterinary Clinic, Mission Boulevard and G Street
The figures of a dog jumping up on a child holding a container of water above his head stand on a 3' high base and are made of bronze, measuring 4' 9" high by 3' wide.

"Lunar Asparagus People" by Llisa Demetrios
The Chess Business Condo Complex, Kohoutek Way
These three bronze pieces were inspired by totemic emblems and depict the union of a community or family standing tall. Ranging in height from 3 1/2' to 7' tall and 16" in diameter, the pieces are secured to a square concrete pad on an elevated grassy knoll.

"Peace to the Children" by Enrique Romero
Pacific Bell Building, Mission and F Street
Painted on wood and measuring 8' tall and 40' wide, this piece depicts sports, and cultural and religious themes, uniting past and present strands of life.

"Rhythm" by Archie Held
Central Business Park, 33363 Central Avenue
Three bronze structures rise from a cement base 18" high by 10' in diameter, curving and bowing to each other at a height of twelve feet.

"Selkie 11" by Damon Hildreth
Union Landing, La-Z-boy
This curved cor-ten steel shape stands on a 3' pedestal of concrete and wears a weather/element-produced patina, its material meant to change over time.

"7th Street Arches" by Glen Rogers and James Logan High School students
Decoto Business Park, 34485 7th Street
Each steel arch rises almost 20' high from its two-tiered concrete base. Students from Logan High created the tile designs on the bases in conjunction with the artist, and Lizard Skin Studios did the fabrication.

"Skyward" by Archie Held
Westland Giftware, 2901 Faber Street (off Whipple and Ahern)
Three solid bronze pieces shoot up 10' high together from a 3' x 1' circular base, their tops separating to their own directions in the sky.

"Untitled" by Aaron Van De Kerckhove
Mission Gateway, 33125 Mission Boulevard (corner of Mission and Whipple)
A single piece of steel makes up this 8' tall sculpture, its curves imitating those of a number eight. It is supported by a 6' x 2' circular cement base, which is waxed for a polished look.

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