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Bringing the ocean on shore

A Festival of Arts exhibitor has found a way for the ocean to meet the street.

Dan Skaggs and his colleagues worked to install a sea-inspired sculpture at South Coast Highway and Pearl Street on Monday before a steady stream of onlookers.

“This is the first sculpture I’ve done in 15 years; I was so glad to have the opportunity to do one,” said Skaggs, who has a master’s degree in sculpting but has built his career around designing “water walls,” fountains that cascade from the top of a wall.

In fact, he said, he never took “sculpture” off his business card, in hopes of having the chance to do another.

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The new commission, an Art in Public Places component for a new commercial and retail project, is comprised of a vertical polished stainless steel ribbon-like element that is inserted into a glass, tile-covered base, like Excalibur in its stone.

A school of fish is laser-cut out of the shiny metal; the edges are rounded to allow for young fingers that may touch the piece.

The base of the piece, which is a geometric wave shape, is made of iridescent, blue-green glass tiles, capturing today’s hottest kitchen and bath trend.

Fittingly, the sculpture occupies a round pedestal in front of Feast, a high-end housewares store.

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Its concrete base will be covered with sandstone, as the piece is based on a real rock at Pearl Street Beach, Skaggs said.

Skaggs and his team began the installation with the sculpture pre-mounted to plywood beams. They slowly transitioned it to wooden blocks before easing it into its berth, using long steel bolts to affix it to the round concrete pedestal.

After some tense moments and a few broken tiles, Skaggs held a hand mirror below the weighty piece to ensure its perfect placement on the pedestal.

“Houston, we’ve got contact,” quipped helper and fellow artist Harvey McMeekin, who has collaborated on several projects with Skaggs.

Skaggs carefully inspected the installation before coming up with an idea to better mount it.

“This isn’t going anywhere, but I just want it better,” he told his team.

“It looks great,” said Jeff Bowers, a principal at Bowers Perez Associates, which manages the new Pearl Street Commercial Center development at 1833 S. Coast Highway.

Other retail stores in the building are a women’s clothing store and a soon-to-open shoe store; offices occupy the second story. Most of the retail shops opened a month ago, and the building is already fully occupied.

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Skaggs was first hired to create a water fountain feature in the building’s courtyard. Such works are Skaggs’s specialty; he has been commissioned by South Coast Medical Center; UC Irvine; and the Mandalay Bay casino-hotel complex in Las Vegas.

Then Bowers had an idea to harness Skaggs’s talent in another project he was facing: the new building’s Art In Public Places component, required by the city.

The Art In Public Places program applies to new projects valued at $225,000 or more that contain more than four units, whether they are zoned commercial, industrial or residential.

A developer would either allocate at least 1% of the total value of the project toward a piece of permanent outdoor artwork at the site, or pay an in-lieu fee of 1.25% to the city’s Art In Public Places fund, which means that the money could finance public art anywhere in Laguna.

“We paid the fee initially, but we wanted to get the most bang for our buck,” Bowers said. “Instead of having the art go somewhere else in the city, we decided we would like to have it in front of our building.”

He then approached Skaggs about designing the Art In Public Places component.

“We liked how fast he worked, and we liked the work itself,” Bowers said.

Skaggs valued the proposed work at $17,000 — about the same price the developer had already paid to the city for its Art In Public Places fee.

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The developer will receive a refund of the fee upon completion of the commission.


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