Surf sculpture withdrawn

Coastline Pilot

Sculptor Andrew Myers has told the city that the changes made to his submission in the Brooks Street art competition are unacceptable and he is withdrawing his winning entry.

The city was waiting for Myers' written withdrawal before taking further action on its obligation to provide a piece of public art for its Brooks Street access renovation or pay into the art-in-lieu fund. The letter arrived Thursday morning.

"To do anything different from the council's previous action would take subsequent council action," Assistant City Manager John Pietig said. "No date has been set for the item to be heard."

Myers decided to relinquish the $20,000 prize money rather than make the changes to his bronze sculpture of a surfer imposed by the City Council at the May 18 meeting. The changes included relocating and reorienting it and removing the orange color from the surfboard.

"The council compromised the artist's vision, and I agree with his position and I applaud him," said architect Morris Skenderian, who redesigned the Brooks Street public access. "But I don't think any art belongs on that pedestal."

Myers' sculpture was proposed to project up from the pedestal in the center of the access. Objections were raised about the placement, which intruded into the view.

"If we can't put in a piece of art that makes the site better, then don't do it at all," Skenderian said. "Brooks Street Park is a piece of art in itself."

The Arts Commission was aware of the site's historic and visual importance when it began the competition. Rather than offer the $3,000 prize allotted by the city for the art, the commission dipped into its Business Improvement District funds to up the prize to $20,000.

"Three thousand dollars would hardly buy you anything effective, but the additional $17,000 can buy you something," Skenderian said.

Where the "something" is placed was one of the primary issues for the council, as well as Skenderian.

"My hope, although no one asked me, was that the art would go in the landscaping to the left," he said.

The right side, facing the access, where the council wanted the sculpture relocated, is already too cluttered and any art would be lost, Skenderian said.

He suggested that something as simple as the bronze plaque installed after the renovations to the Shoals, another Skenderian project, would be appropriate.

The Shoals is on the site of Frank Cuprien's Viking Studio. The plaque bears the artist's portrait and a brief history of the studio.

"People stop and read it all the time," Skenderian said.

A plaque at Brooks Street could be a tribute to someone or just the history of the iconic surfing site, Skenderian opined.

The sculpture's proposed location in the center of the view and the orange finish on the surfboard he holds united local surfers in opposing the commission's recommendation.

The location was also a problem for City Manager Ken Frank and Public Works Director Steve May who questioned the placement. The intent of the Brooks Street improvement was to afford the public an uninterrupted view of the ocean from the end of the street, they said.

Councilman Kelly Boyd, who has surfed Brooks Street, proposed the changes as a compromise, but Myers did not see it that way.

"This doesn't sound like a compromise to me," Myers told the council. "Having gone through the process, I am very disillusioned about what has happened."

The commission is an advisory body to the council, which makes the final decision on commission recommendations.

On the Monday after the council meeting, Myers met with Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl, Skenderian, Arts Commissioner Mary Ferguson and Boyd, and informed them of his decision to withdraw the entry.

Myers' entry was one of 10 submitted to the commission and one of three finalists. Sculptor Cheryl Ekstron and ceramist Marlo Bartels also made the cut. Bartels already has work on the site: tiling on the risers of the stairs to the beach.

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

But local surfers abhorred the long board's orange color, which was not historically accurate.

"Long boards were never painted," Boyd said.

Commissioners said Tuesday that they would not hold any further meetings on the project unless ordered to do so by the council.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World