Not enough funds to maintain “The Sunbathers” sculpture? The two semi-abstract figures lounge in Nita Carman Park behind the high school baseball field. They will be “deaccessioned” and removed because the cost to refurbish them was deemed to be too high by the Arts Commission and City Council.
This is a small, secluded park with grass, trees and a couple of picnic tables. I love the sculpture not only because of its witty play on human forms as they assume typical positions relaxing in the Laguna sunshine and shade as the day goes on, but because they make me feel that the park is never alone. When we visit or walk by we always have their eccentric company.
In a town where public art pieces are often controversial, when “The Sunbathers” is mentioned, I’ve never heard anything but appreciative words, often said with a smile. “It’s one of the best in town and very fitting to its location,” is a typical comment.
The artist Leonard Glasser’s works can be seen on a youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOCmLlFVwI8. Our sculptures are in prestigious company. Glasser offered to replicate the work in stainless steel for $7,200. The staff did not think this was an accurate cost and so his suggestion was rejected. They presented the Council with a $10,600 cost for refurbishment with powder-coated paint.
The Council unanimously approved the removal.
The artist will be asked to retrieve his artwork and I, for one, will be missing a bright spot in my day as I pass by on Wilson Street. Will you?
The Council also directed that the Arts Commission consider replacement art work. Finding a replacement will involve a competition process. Honorariums will be paid. Staff, commission and the public will spend time on selection. There could be controversy. And then the new art will have to be paid for and installed. Even adding on the extra costs staff felt the artist didn’t include in his $7,200 figure estimate, the new art work cost could well exceed the cost of Glasser’s stainless steel work.
It’s hard to accept that the decision was a matter of costs, because later in the agenda the Council considered how to allocate $4.8 million in income that exceeded the adopted city budget estimate. They voted to contribute $2 million over four years to assist the Playhouse and the Laguna Art Museum with capital improvements.
In addition, $30,000 was approved to continue coyote control with “Critter Busters.”
This includes trapping and “euthanizing” them. Mayor Dicterow was the sole vote against this program. He described his nightly walks with the family’s Pomeranian. “When I spot a coyote I pick up the dog and make threatening gestures at the coyote. Guess what it does? It runs away.”
“Besides coyotes, I see possums, raccoons. Isn’t this the kind of community we want to live in—where we can co-exist with wildlife?”
Members of the public presented arguments against the trapping, side by side with those who were concerned about coyotes being in their neighborhoods and were asking that something be done. Some urged that a study be undertaken before doing any more trapping.
Newport Beach and Huntington Beach both have plans that outline a tiered response to coyote sightings, which include three levels of intensifying education, hazing, raising public awareness, and community involvement. Only if there is a provoked or unprovoked close encounter or attack on humans are lethal methods employed.
Here in Laguna Beach as many as 11 coyotes have been trapped and killed between October and December of last year. Police Chief Laura Farinella says that they are not trapping now because reported sightings and incidents are down 95%.
Can you have too few coyotes? The OC Parks project manager for the Irvine Ranch Historic Park for which I was the landscape architect reports that our landscaping is overrun with rabbits. They particularly like star jasmine, which is chewed down to the ground. The park is surrounded by housing, a church and a shopping center, yet even here we see the results of nature being out of balance.
Let’s hope we don’t have more Easter bunnies than the remaining coyotes can handle.