Giant sculptures to join murals in city’s public art program

Giant sculptures to join murals in city’s public art program

The Dahlia, Metal Poppy and the Giraffe duo are three of the temporary art installations that will be on display in Concord from Oct. 8 until Jan. 8, 2023. The Dahlia will be facing Todos Santos Park, the Poppy will be outside of the Brenden Theatres and the Giraffe duo will be clearly visible off of Clayton Rd. installed at the Concord Historical Society. (Contributed photo)

CONCORD, CA (Sept. 14, 2023) — Public art has come a long way since the controversial spirit poles were installed – and later crumbled – on Concord Avenue nearly 35 years ago.

Following the success of nine public art murals last year, organizers are gearing up to install several public art sculptures around the city starting in early October. They are also working with muralists to paint large-sized works in several spots in Concord.

Credit for part of the art expansion goes to the city’s Creative Concord program and Local Edition Creative, the East Bay arts organization that produced the city’s art program and helped spearhead the murals painted on Concord buildings last year. You can find murals at Vinnie’s Bar & Grill, La Piñata restaurant and Kyoto Ramen downtown and behind the Old Navy store at The Veranda, among other locations.

Creating an ‘unexpected sight’

According to Local Edition Creative founders Sage and Tari Loring, three temporary art installations are locked in to be on display Oct. 8-Jan. 8.

“The Dahlia will be facing Todos Santos Plaza, The Full Metal Poppy will be outside of the Brenden Theatres (on Galindo) and the Giraffe duo will be clearly visible off of Clayton Road, installed at the Concord Historical Society,” Sage Loring said. “We know that the pumpkins and Christmas tree lot will attract lots of people to the entrance on Clayton, and the Giraffes will be a lovely and unexpected sight to see across the road.”

To help draw attention to them, all three sculptures will be lit up with LED components.

The upcoming installations follow positive feedback about last year’s murals from business owners, Concord employees and the public, as well as the sponsors and participants.

“Everybody that we worked with has been very supportive, and they understand the vision and how it benefits the entire community overall,” Loring said.

Artists in a jam

Last year’s program included a gathering in Todos Santos Plaza, where artists created their own works at an Artist Mural Painting Jam. A dozen artists made 6-by 6-foot portable paintings, which Concord nonprofit groups now display at their sites.

One of those artists was Brian Arriaga, a 31-year-old Concord native who painted a large-scale colorful rooster during the outdoor jam. He said painting in front of onlookers was a positive experience on many fronts.

“I consider myself a very talkative and social person, and I enjoyed every bit of it,” Arriaga said. “We had people asking questions, complimenting, asking why we were painting and what we were painting. I was also able to speak to people who might be intimidated to paint in front of other people.”

This fall’s project will include a two-day painting jam 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 14 and 15 in Todos Santos Plaza. Each chosen artist will receive a large canvas and a $500 stipend to create their paintings, which will later be sold.

Poetry a plus

But this year’s public art installation project isn’t just about painting and sculptures. On the afternoon of Oct. 15, two poetry events featuring Jose Cordon will take place at the Concord Historical Society.

Cordon said the presentations will include two featured poets and several high school students reading poetry inspired by the permanent murals installed last summer. He said the poetry performance will be called “A Mural of Words: The Art of Spoken Word Poetry.”

“One of the things they want to do is bring all sorts of art forms together, and that’s important,” said the 30-year-old Cordon, who was named Antioch poet laureate last year.

Adding poetry to the mix of Creative Concord offerings is key to Loring’s mission.

“We have to have a performing arts component,” he said. “We are trying to create community with art. It’s a big community builder.”

America to the rescue

The money to produce Creative Concord comes from a $200,000 award from the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. The project received $100,000 for this year’s program, with another $100,000 allocated for 2024, Loring said.

Because the federal money falls short by about $75,000, Loring is hoping grants and sponsorships come through.

“Our goal each year is to build the best arts and culture experience we can for Contra Costa County with the funding we have to work with,” Loring said.

Jennifer Ortega, Concord’s Community Relations manager, said this year’s program is building on the success of last year’s Creative Concord event. “Art and culture bring people together and can generate a sense of pride in the community. That is our hope with this project,” she said.

Beth Javens of Visit Concord said she would like to see a pop-up gallery where the art can be displayed long after the art jam in the park is over.

“A space with critical mass or high foot traffic and wheel traffic would be highly desired for continued public engagement and enjoyment,” Javens said.

Creating a sense of community

Research shows that public art has many benefits for people, including combating feelings of anxiety and social isolation. Communities also gain cultural, social and economic benefits through public art.

According to Americans for the Arts, 70% of Americans said that the arts “improve the image and identity” of their communities. The organization also found that public art “provides a visual mechanism for understanding other cultures and perspectives and reinforcing social connectivity with others.”

In fact, 73% of Americans said that the arts help them “understand other cultures better.”

For Loring, combining public art with performance art is the ideal way to expose more people to different types of artistic endeavors.
“It’s important for us to say, ‘This is an art form and maybe it’s something that (people) haven’t been exposed to before,’ ” he said. “Public art doesn’t have to be spirit poles.”