Anyone out there longing to own a piece of public art may find a good deal on two pieces that once adorned the Turlock area. The downside is that both pieces are in pretty decrepit condition.
On Oct. 23, the Turlock City council approved a motion to put the Energy Burst and the Scandinavian Village statue up for sale after both art pieces sustained significant damage from years of being stored in the city yard.
The Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission recommended the two pieces be sold to the public and any resulting funds be placed in the tourism fund to use on future public art projects and their ongoing maintenance.
It’s not expected that either art piece will bring in a significant amount of money, but what they do generate will go towards the city’s general fund rather than to the tourism fund after Council member Amy Bublak suggested the change.
“My only concern is that we have some financial problems and it may not be that much money, but right now I think we shouldn’t be socking money away for art,” Bublak said. “I think we need to put it back into what we are doing on a daily basis. And should we have a surplus at some point then we can start working towards having art and such, but at this point I think our priorities need to be the day to day duties and our employees.”
The motion was passed 4-1, with Council member Gil Esquer voting no.
The Energy Burst once served as a Turlock landmark perched atop a large sign next to Highway 99. The aluminum sculpture was created by San Francisco artist William Wareham and was installed in 1999 at the Turlock Auto Mall freeway identification sign near the Fulkerth Road exit on southbound Highway 99.
The artwork remained for a few years until the Turlock Auto Plaza replaced it with a LED display. There were discussions with Stanislaus State about displaying the artwork on their campus, but in the end the university declined the piece and it was sent to the Corporation Yard. City staff could not find the cost of the sculpture. Some estimates put it at $20,000, while others were as high as $80,000.
At the Corporation Yard the artwork was subjected to vandals, who damaged the piece while trying to remove parts from it, possibly for recycling, according to Turlock Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder.
The Scandinavian Village statue was part of a series of statues created by a visiting Scandinavian artist visiting during the Turlock Skandi-Fest celebrations in the early to mid-1990s. The artist made his statues by carving out large logs with a chainsaw. One statue was of a large Viking that was donated to Johansen High School in Modesto and another was of a Volvo car that was donated to a local car dealership.
One statue was done depicting a Scandinavian family and it was presented to the City of Turlock. In 1997 the artwork was installed at W. Main Street and Broadway during the annual Skandi-Fest celebration. City of Turlock staff were unsure when the statue was removed but did know it was sometime during the downtown revitalization project, which began in 1999.
The committee that was working on the downtown design decided they didn’t want the artwork back. It was then put into storage at the Corporation Yard.
The years of storage were not kind to the statue and now it has sustained severe wood rot.
When asked what the possible interest would be in a statue in such a state of disrepair, Van Guilder was optimistic about the prospects.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” she said. “I’m hopeful that there is someone out there that will see the value in it.”
The two pieces will be sold at a later date, yet to be determined.