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Council, artist clash over surf sculpture

The City Council on Tuesday approved a compromise between an artist’s vision for a sculpture to honor a local surfing Mecca and the community’s point of view.

Andrew Myers’ sculpture, which was recommended by the Arts Commission for installation in the center of the viewing platform above Brooks Street Beach, was relocated, reoriented and restricted to a bronze finish, as proposed by Councilman Kelly Boyd.

“This doesn’t sound like a compromise to me,” Myers said. “Having gone through the process, I am very disillusioned about what has happened.”

Myers was clearly distressed by comments from the public, surfers and Boyd, in an hourlong hearing. Eighteen members of the public spoke, 16 of them supporting the councilman’s compromise.

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“The Classic,” as envisioned by Myers, is a depiction of a bronze surfer holding a surfboard behind him, the board colored with orange automotive paint. The 4-foot, 7-inch sculpture as recommended by the commission would have been installed on a 14-inch concrete pedestal mounted on the existing circular seating at the street level above the beach, claimed by many to be the site of the world’s first and longest running surfing contest.

Overall height of the installation would have been 7 feet, 4 inches. Street-end viewers away from the deck would have seen just the orange surfboard thrusting up in the middle of the viewshed to the ocean, hiding the standing figure facing the ocean.

City Manager Ken Frank and Public Works Director Steve May questioned whether the sculpture’s proposed location was in line with the intent of the Brooks Street improvement to afford the public an uninterrupted view of the ocean from the end of the street.

“When I was growing up one of the greatest things was that viewshed — I could see the waves coming in,” said retired Laguna Beach firefighter Karl Klass, like Boyd a Laguna Beach native. “I am not happy with this in the viewshed and having the guy [sculpture] facing south where the waves are coming from.”

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Boyd proposed moving the sculpture to the right of the view deck and canting it toward the iconic Second Reef. However, Scott Holt said the council should trust the decision of the Arts Commission.

Asked by Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman if he was suggesting the council should not relocate the sculpture, Scott said he just thought the location should have been decided earlier.

“Brooks Street is a very important site,” Arts Commissioner Mary Ferguson said. “Because of the significance, the commission raised the proposed $3,200 artist honorarium to $20,000.

Ten proposals were submitted. The commission chose three finalists: Myers, ceramist Marlo Bartels and sculptor Cheryl Ekstrom.

“It was a difficult choice between the three,” Ferguson said. “We chose Andrew Myers because it honors the history.”

Myers said he feel strongly about the piece.

“It isn’t about me; it’s about surfing,” Myers said.

And he defended the orange color.

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“The color sets it apart from anything ever done.” Myers said.

Facundo Malbran said the council was missing the fact that the piece was made to be orange, and it shouldn’t be changed.

Boyd didn’t agree.

“I like the piece; I really like the piece,” Boyd said. “But 5 feet of orange jumping out at you is not what I would like to see.”

Surfers opposed the color because the board was supposed to represent the long boards used in the early days of surfing.

“Other than Corky [Smith], I am possibly the oldest surfer here — I was Junior Brooks Street Champion at 13,” Boyd said. “The first board I ever rode was the first board Hobie [Alter] ever made. We didn’t paint long boards.”

Surfers at the meeting were united in opposition to the color. Some of them also objected to the shape.

Myers said he was not a board shaper, and he had talked to world renowned shaper Terry Martin about shaping it.

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Boyd invoked the name of another legend in the surfing community.

He proposed the “The Classic” should be dedicated to the late Joe Epps, seconded by Coastline Pilot surfing columnist James Pribram.


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