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Laguna Beach debuts two new public art pieces

Casey Parlette, center, is the creator of the shark sculptures temporarily installed on the lawn at Laguna Beach City Hall.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

New artwork is popping up all over town in Laguna Beach.

A dedication event was held for two new structural public art installations last week, introducing the public to Jeffrey Skarvan’s “Call to Action” and Casey Parlette’s “Shark Migration.”

Skarvan’s work incorporates the red phone booth on Forest Avenue. A contest is held every two years for public art installations using that booth.

There were 11 applicants for the contest this time around. In having his project selected, Skarvan received a $5,000 honorarium.

Skarvan, 58, of San Juan Capistrano, said this is the fourth time he has worked with the city on a project, but this time was different. The previous three involved designs for banners.

The Red Phone Booth installation called, "Call to Action," with an octopus stationed on top a phone booth on Forest Avenue.
The Red Phone Booth installation called, “Call to Action,” with an octopus stationed on top a phone booth along Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach is the creation by Jeffrey Skarvan.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“This was a little bit of a departure for me to do the sculpture,” Skarvan said. “I had never done a large-scale sculpture like that and used that material, so it was a real learning process.

“[Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Manager] Sian Poeschl and I, she got to know me over the years, my delivering on the banner designs. When I submitted my design, they asked for examples of similar work, and all I could do was provide examples of the banners that I had done for them.”

The Laguna Beach City Council was on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the completion of renovations to the restroom at South Main Beach.

It took a leap of faith from Poeschl, Skarvan said, but he delivered. He now hopes that his work will elicit smiles, while also serving as a thought-provoking piece.

“I’ve glazed the inner glass of the booth to kind of represent water,” Skarvan said. “[The octopus is] on top of the phone booth, hence, kind of the play on [words], ‘Call,’ but ‘Call to Action’ is really about then kind of moving past that initial wonder and smile to kind of think about stewardship of the environment.”

Parlette, 41, of Laguna Beach, set up his stainless-steel structure, “Shark Migration,” down the street, on the lawn at City Hall.

Jeffrey Skarvan, second from left, and Casey Parlette, far left, take turns speaking during a dedication event.
Jeffrey Skarvan, second from left, and Casey Parlette, far left, take turns speaking during a dedication event for their public art installations on Friday, May 7, in Laguna Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Four species of sharks are featured in the collection, including a hammerhead, a thresher, a blue and a leopard shark. The sharks will be in front of City Hall for three months, but if things go according to plan, that will not be their last stop.

“My original thought on this whole thing was to have this piece that basically can migrate to different locations and … continue to sort of spread that message that shark populations worldwide are diminishing and are in need of conservation,” Parlette said.

“I think it’s a neat opportunity to be able to get into different cities and go to different places and have them sort of travel to different audiences that may not have seen them when they were on display in Laguna.”

A $20,000 donation provided by Mark Porterfield and Steve Chadima helped make the temporary art project happen.

“These installations are part of a larger program and planning initiative of bringing temporary and permanent public art to Laguna Beach,” Poeschl wrote in an email. “The city wanted to expand COVID-safe cultural experiences for residents.

“We are excited to be adding a new installation in the coming weeks and will be presenting a sound art installation titled “Soundwalk” by Ellen Reid in early July. All these are opportunities to experience a variety and depth of public art in a safe [manner] and in stunning locations. I am extremely proud and encouraged to be working with [the] City Council and [the] Arts Commission to be engaging artists, as well as the community.”

Laguna Beach Arts Commission chair Adam Schwerner and visitors applaud the work of Jeffrey Skarvan and Casey Parlette.
Adam Schwerner, left, Laguna Beach Arts Commission chairman, and visitors applaud the work of artists Jeffrey Skarvan, second from right, and Casey Parlette, far right, during a dedication event for their public art installations on Friday, May 7 in Laguna Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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