Public art is happening in San Clemente. Public art enables us to involve local artists in the conception, development and transformation of a public space. The end result is a good vibe, a sense of renewal and a unique local identity. From sculptures and murals, to bridges and bicycle racks, public art reinforces a town’s distinctive sense of place. It can celebrate history and promote the ideals, activities, people and places we citizens hold dear. Already, public art has brought a wide-range of artistic styles and ideas to San Clemente. To further encourage public art, the General Plan Advisory Committee will be proposing policies to support and promote art in public places.
San Clemente boasts a thriving art community. That makes us fortunate to have local talent to call upon. One example is Paul Gavin, who created the paintings above the underpass entrances at the foot of the pier. With their small-town feel, the paintings bring a smile to the face, and have the added safety bonus of encouraging use of the railroad underpass.
Another example of local artists at work is the painting of utility boxes, transforming them into eye-catching works of art in public spaces. These boxes are fondly referred to as street art and have become focal points instead of distractions. The 17 submissions received during the pilot program were fantastic, though only five boxes were slated to paint. San Clemente Art Association members volunteered to work with city staff to provide consultation and facilitate the program. Much credit goes to city planning staffers Jeff Hook and Amber Gregg for bringing this program to life. They did a wonderful job, as did SCAA, who had previously worked on the logo and art contest that resulted in artwork for use in the 12 themed chapters of the new General Plan.
Just this month your City Council approved another round of utility boxes to receive street art. A “Call for Artists” will run from January 2 to February 15, 2013. Twelve-year-old Jackson Hinkle and his mom Jann, whose “Surfs Up” art was chosen for the utility box near San Clemente High School, had a great experience with the pilot program. He says that his art “is the gift that keeps on giving!” Public art does in fact keep on giving as seen in other venues, like downtown, where public art in the form of floor and wall murals is attractively displayed. The Downtown Business Association spearheaded these mosaic tile projects, complete with seating areas, along Avenida Del Mar. The Historical Society also played a significant role. Eight locations were approved in 2007 by the Planning Commission and three have since been completed.
The city used public art to enhance popular public spaces such as the T-Street Bridge. Built in 1981, the overpass structure had taken a beating from the harsh ocean environment and since it was necessary to repair why not also beautify with public art? Last year’s renovation included decorative Spanish tiles, which enhanced the overall look and feel of the area at a very modest cost. Recently, local artist Kathryn Stovall-Dennis did a masterful job designing and creating the vivid tile murals of Ole Hanson-style divers that mark the main entrance to the new San Clemente Aquatics Center.
The benefits of public art are far reaching. Public art has even been known to discourage graffiti. Though graffiti occasionally occurs, the city’s graffiti removal program is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to ensure our community remains beautiful. If you see graffiti, please report it anonymously online at www.san-clemente.org or call 949.361.8385.