Environmental Concerns Entangle Museum’s Floating Light

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A Newport Beach engineering firms helped assemble "Seascape," whose installation unexpectedly ran aground this week.
A Newport Beach engineering firms helped assemble “Seascape,” whose installation unexpectedly ran aground this week.

A boat carrying a floating light standard created for a temporary Laguna Art Museum exhibit retreated back to Newport Beach on Friday, Nov. 3, halted by eleventh-hour environmental concerns raised by regulators over its installation.

“As you might imagine, we were in unfamiliar regulatory territory with this particular piece, and have proceeded in the belief that with enthusiastic support from the city and the approvals we secured from the Coastal Commission, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the US Coast Guard, we could safely go ahead,” Museum Executive Director Malcolm Warner said in a statement.

Late last week, after consultation with state resource agencies, the California Coastal Commission directed the museum to hold off on installing the piece while some environmental issues and concerns are addressed, Warner’s statement read.

The installation requires 400 pounds of ballast to weight the buoy like light on the sea floor offshore Main Beach, which is within a marine protected area.

The artwork “Seascape” was devised by Mexico City artist Pablo Vargas Lugo and was to be installed this past Thursday, Nov. 2, for the kick off of the museum’s Art and Nature symposium.

Engineers who worked on the project initially postponed the installation by a day, deciding that a crane was needed on the boat deck to safely hoist the 40-foot long Styrofoam shaft into the seas 200 yards off the Laguna Beach coastline. They set out again on Friday, but reversed course as midday, said museum spokesman Cody Lee.

Artist Pablo Vargas Lugo describes the intent of his ocean art installation, which remains grounded, Photo by Eric Stoner
Artist Pablo Vargas Lugo describes the intent of his ocean art installation, which remains grounded, Photo by Eric Stoner

At a planned presentation at the museum Friday evening, Lugo described the work, whose solar panels and battery would spotlight a circle of sea and transmit an image of the illuminated “Seascape” that was intended to be shown in the museum foyer. He said he envisioned the lonesome streetlight bobbing in the ocean as means to tweak public perceptions about rising sea levels and the built environment.

While the rest of the Art & Nature events will continue this weekend as scheduled, Warner said museum officials intend to work with regulators in coming days and hope to receive permission to install the work soon.

 

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