Los Altos awaits new sculptures through arts committee competition

By Agnes Derbin

Special to the Town Crier

Many Los Altans consider the monumental, imposing "Ricochet" by artist Robert Ellison as natural as the trees in Lincoln Park. Others may readily identify with "The Australian Cattle Dog" by Anne Weinbolt. This earthbound tribute to the four-legged creatures looks quite content at the Los Altos Youth Center in the City Hall complex. Still others, particularly the children, prefer the "Magic Fish" by our local multi-talented Hardy Jones, who also is an orthopedic surgeon and member of the Los Altos Arts Committee, the group responsible for bringing sculpture to Los Altos.

This fall marks the 10th anniversary for the arts committee and the sixth Outdoor Sculpture on Loan competition and installation project. Arts committee member Connie Chronis has worked one year on the competition. We shall soon see the results of her labor this fall with new art. Some of the favorites like "The Australian Cattle Dog" and the "Magic Fish" will stay, while others like "Standing Together" by Marlen Louchheim will be returned to the artist as part of the two-year loan program.

The new sculptures will be installed after approvals are given by the Los Altos City Council. The approvals are before the council at its meeting next Tuesday. For this latest competition, the arts committee accepted 11 of the 23 applications.

Conceived as an autonomous group rather than a commission, the Arts Committee members are energetic and creative volunteers from the community, notes long-time member Nancy Marston. Marston, who recently rotated off the arts committee after working with the sculpture program and other projects for nine years, is passionate about the sculpture program and the positive energy it brings to the community. Marston also gives high marks to the artists who have made the Los Altos loan sculpture an award winning model that has been copied by other communities.

Marston, an artist, has been actively promoting community service for many years, initially setting up and eventually serving as coordinator for the Los Altos Art Docent Program. Marston's interest in community enrichment through the arts is typical for the caliber Arts Committee membership. Her interests are broad and she is energetic.

The arts committee is responsible for several projects in addition to the Outdoor Sculpture on Loan Program, but sculpture program is by far the most visible and controversial. Marston fondly recalls the early days of the loan program which unofficially began in 1986 with artist Paul Goreniuc's generous loan to the city of his sculpture "Space Dance for Peace."

City officials excitedly responded by encouraging the formation of the arts committee and charging them with the task to develop a sculpture program that would provide a continual sampling of sculpture in a changing outdoor art gallery venue. "It took 18 months from the first call for entry to the installation of the works in 1988," Marston said. She recalled the first Outdoor Sculpture on Loan completion as a "success because the City Council, the Parks and Recreation Department and Brown Taylor from the Police Department came through for us."

Marston would like to see some changes to the current program, but overall, she said the program works. Artists currently are responsible for transportation and installation cost. In addition, artists must purchase liability insurance for each work of art displayed in loan program.

She noted the first sculpture acquired for the city was "Diamond Jubilee" by Taro Seesurat. Located at City Hall, this piece was purchased by a resident and dedicated to the city's women volunteers. Several pieces have since been purchased by private citizens, and others have been donated to the city by the participating artists.

The reception for the sixth Outdoor Sculpture Loan program will be announced later. The public is encouraged to come meet the artists and enjoy the sculpture. Marston would like to see more sculptures placed in Los Altos on a permanent basis, emphasizing that all the works of art can be purchased by individuals and groups.

For more information, call 948-0482.

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