The city’s Arts Commission selected four finalists to compete for a $75,000 commission to create a memorial for Gordon French and Jon Coutchie, Laguna Beach police officers who died while on duty. The monument will be located outside the city’s police department, at the south end of City Hall.
“This is one of the most important pieces we have ever done,” said Arts Commission member Nick Hernandez during a public meeting this past Monday, March 10.
Among those seeking the commission were Marlo Bartels, Gregg Abel, Tristan Abel, Jorg Dubin, Craig French, Christopher Schultz, Marsh Scott, Terry Thornsley and collaborative teams Gerard Basil Stripling and Michele Taylor, Gavin Heath and Larry Gill and John Seeman and Mike Tauber.
After reviewing artists’ qualification and previous projects on line, the committee selected Dubin, Scott, Thornsley and Stripling and Taylor, all of them veterans of previous public art installations in Laguna and elsewhere.
Arts commissioners Suzi Chauvel, Lisa Mansour and Ken Auster suggested adding Schultz to the roster, but the motion failed by a 5-3 vote. Commissioner Mary Ferguson noted that Schultz lacked a sufficient track record for a fast-track commission. “That memorial must be installed on the anniversary of officer Couthie’s death,” she said.
The motor officer died in a traffic collision while working the late shift last Sept. 21, at the corner of Coast Highway and Cleo Street, the first fatality on the force since French’s death in 1953.
The artists were to meet with the commission at the police department site this past week and submit their proposals on April 9. The following week, they will be asked to make presentations to the commission with models, scale drawings and support materials. On May 6, work by the final selected artist will be unveiled before the City Council.
The Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association began fundraising to underwrite the memorial last year and exceeded their $40,000 goal, having collected $100,000. Of that, $75,000 is earmarked for the memorial and remainder for scholarships, said Larry Bammer, the association’s president.