The city’s Arts Commission selected six Laguna Beach artists as finalists in a public art competition to create a mural for Main Beach, the town’s most popular focal point. Because of a lack of clarity, a second art work planned for the lifeguard headquarters under construction was postponed for a second time.
Despite that the $100,000 competition was open to artists region wide, Laguna artists with proven public art credentials were chosen: Marlo Bartels, Scott and Naomi Schoenherr, Terry Thornsley and the artist team of Mike Tauber and Michele Taylor,
“I feel honored and humbled by being selected,” said Bartels, a former lifeguard himself, who has yet to develop a design plan.
The commission, one of the city’s largest ever awards, attracted 26 candidates wanting to execute the two works: $40,000 was budgeted for the mural and $60,000 for the sculpture.
Artists could apply for either project, which must reflect the marine environment and the role of lifeguards, separately or for both. Artists were not asked for specific proposals, but to submit expressions of interest in a letter of intent and to provide proof of expertise with public art commissions.
The commission earlier postponed the deadline until April 1 because many of the 26 applicants had failed to fulfill the requirements. Even though requirements prohibited painted elements, for example, several submitted painted mural samples and thus placed themselves out of contention.
Lorene Auger, a spokeswoman for San Diego’s Windward Design and entrant William Watts, found requirements difficult to interpret. “We do large public projects and had planned a complete interactive project for the site including tide pools with sea creatures and a bronze sculpture at the end of a wave pool,” said Auger. “We kept asking where we fall short since we submitted plans for an amazing art piece,” she added.
Watts, an architect and artists, disappointed at no longer being able to compete for the entire project, said he might re-enter the sculpture portion when it becomes re-instated. He recognized that terrain can change during construction.
Mural finalists will tour the site on April 15 with a sub-committee comprised of Arts Commission members Ken Auster, Suzi Chauvel and Donna Ballard.
A change of topography caused by ongoing construction, as well as complaints about requirements being difficult to interpret caused the commission to table the sculpture portion. “Requirements evolved while our eye of what should go into that space has matured. We need to take time to discuss and re-think the project and then re-write requirements to create the perfect opportunity,” said Auster. “We might open the sculpture part to an even a wider geographical area. A revision will also give artists a fresh chance to go through their portfolios and find more suitable submissions for the site,” he added.
Original specifics called for a low-profile sculpture 25 feet long and a mural of weather proof material and no wooden elements.
Auger, a Laguna resident, called for greater transparency in the public art selection process. “The Arts Commission should publish all submissions and especially those whom they selected as finalists so that we can study where we fall short,” she said. “Public art choices should be open to public scrutiny.”