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A different kind of 'art slam' in Newhall

Art finalists for the new roundabout face numerous public complaints

Posted: September 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 9, 2013 2:00 a.m.

These photos show the two finalists' proposed art installations for the roundabout being built in Newhall. Santa Clarita Arts commissioners said they would recommend either "Western Reel" (left) by Michael Clapper or "Facing the Sun, Facing the Future" (right) by Matthew Duffy to the City Council after the public weighs in.

A summertime invitation to the public to choose one of two works of art for the Newhall roundabout apparently hasn’t yielded quite the reception that Santa Clarita city officials had hoped.

Citing emails and letters of complaint, among other input, Santa Clarita City Council members decided last month to put the issue on this week’s council agenda.

Members of the Arts Commission voted earlier this year to pare down a field of six artists’ proposals to two finalists. The public was invited to select a favorite during informal polling July and August at City Hall, where models of both finalists were on display.

The first is Michael Clapper’s “Western Reel,” a large circular sculpture designed to look like a giant film strip with cutouts of a cowboy and galloping horse. Its goal is recognizing Santa Clarita’s film heritage.

The second is Matthew Duffy’s “Facing the Sun, Facing the Future,” a dome-shaped structure lit with programmed LED lights meant to be a nod to the traditional home of the Tataviam people who once inhabited the Santa Clarita Valley.

The results from the public voting at City Hall haven’t been tabulated, said Phil Lantis, a Santa Clarita arts and events administrator, and City Council members haven’t shared the messages they’ve received.

But judging by the reactions received at The Signal, the entire concept of roundabout art was under fire, and the lighted dome came in for particularly sharp criticism.

One Signal columnist called for a tribute to William S. Hart, who donated the park just in front of the roundabout to the county for the enjoyment of Santa Clarita Valley residents.

Several people who posted on Signal stories about the roundabout art work said they would prefer foliage to a sculpture. A large pine or oak tree received the most nods among the greenery-favoring folk.

“I vote ‘no’ on the teepee/igloo-looking thing, and for what it’s worth, I put my vote for a beautiful big oak tree or a beautiful pine tree like is in front of Hart Park,” one poster wrote. “People should not be looking at ‘art’ when navigating a roundabout. There is too much to be paying attention to when driving.”

City officials have said they want a tribute to Newhall’s Western heritage at the roundabout at Main Street and Newhall Avenue, which they call the gateway to the Old Town section of Newhall.

Plans called for the City Council to take up the issue after the Arts Commission considered the public voting and passed its recommendation on to the council.

The budget for the art piece is $45,000.

“The bottom line,” Lantis said, “is our goal is always to provide art that the community embraces and that contributes to the community.”

The City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday inside Council Chambers at 23920 Valencia Blvd.
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