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Sphere sculpture may get long-term spot at Newport’s Civic Center Park

Sphere 112

“Sphere 112” sits on the path leading to the dog park at Newport Beach’s 14-acre Civic Center Park. The local arts foundation has agreed to buy the piece from artist Ivan McLean for $15,000 and donate it to the city.

(Hannah Fry / Daily Pilot)

A steel sphere that has made what was to be a temporary home near the dog park in Newport Beach’s Civic Center Park is one step closer to being a permanent resident.

The city’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission voted 4-0 on Tuesday night to recommend that the City Council indefinitely keep the sculpture “Sphere 112" in the 14-acre park adjacent to City Hall at 100 Civic Center Drive.

Commission Chairman Walt Howald and Commissioners Ron Cole and Roy Englebrecht were absent.

Sculptor Ivan McLean of Portland, Ore., assembled the piece from stainless steel rods of various shapes and sizes welded together. “Sphere 112,” named for its 112-inch diameter, sits adjacent to Avocado Avenue just north of San Miguel Drive.

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“I know this is a matter of personal taste, but I happen to like it very much,” Commissioner Kathy Hamilton said.

I know this is a matter of personal taste, but I happen to like it very much.
Kathy Hamilton, Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation commissioner

The nonprofit Newport Beach Arts Foundation has agreed to buy the piece from McLean for $15,000 and donate it to the city. The city Arts Commission voted unanimously during its most recent meeting in favor of keeping the sphere in the park.

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The City Council will make the final decision at a future meeting.

“Sphere 112" was one of the first 10 modern art pieces placed in the park nearly three years ago as part of an ongoing sculpture exhibition. The plan was to show 10 sculptures in the first year and 10 more in the second year. In the third year, the sculptures from the first year would be removed and replaced with a new set.

But the sphere, which won a people’s choice award during the park’s grand opening, is “quite popular and it has somewhat of a following,” said Library Services Director Tim Hetherton.

Last year, McLean re-created the piece with 316 marine-grade stainless steel rods after officials noticed that the initial sculpture had begun to oxidize. The marine-grade steel is better suited to Newport’s coastal elements, Hetherton said.

Maintenance of the piece is expected to cost the city $250 annually.

Several parks, beaches and recreation commissioners spoke favorably Tuesday about the pieces at the park.

“I like all the pieces,” Commissioner Laird Hayes said. “I’m not sure I understand them all, but they’re appealing to my eye.”

City leaders initially agreed to spend $125,000 annually for the first two phases of the exhibit. The money is used to transport and install the artworks.

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More recently, the City Council – with several members who were elected after the council approved the exhibit in 2013 – has emphasized that the Arts Commission should start using money from private sources, rather than city funds, to finance the project.

The stylistic merit of some of the pieces also has been debated among community members. Councilman Scott Peotter, who has been a strong advocate of the exhibit being privately funded, said last year that while he’s not opposed to art being showcased in the park, he doesn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill for rented artwork they may not enjoy.

The Arts Commission has been working toward a plan to that effect, but the future of the exhibit as a whole is somewhat murky.

“We don’t have the final answer about whether the council is prepared to fund additional rounds of the sculpture exhibit,” Arts Commissioner Robert Smith said Tuesday. “There’s some degree of discussion about how much should be public vs. private. It’s an ongoing discussion.”

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Hannah Fry, hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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