Love her or hate her, the bronze and ceramic statue representation of the Amazon queen Califia has become an iconic figure for downtown Turlock. A special committee chose the 14-foot fountain statue to be the public art piece to cap off the downtown renovation. Although the process of selecting the location, artist and work was daunting at times, according to former City Arts Facilitator and current Director of the Carnegie Arts Center Lisa McDermott, public art is worth the hassle.
"Any money spent on public art is a benefit to the community," said McDermott who coordinated the Califia selection process. "It reduces graffiti and increases community pride."
The Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission agrees with McDermott and has decided to once again tackle the task of coordinating public art projects.
PAR Commissioners Lakneshia Diaz and Larry Yeakel are heading up a subcommittee that will seek input from the community on possible public art locations and projects.
“Our goal is to put together policy and procedures to promote art within the community,” Diaz said. “We would like to reach out to local artists, schools and organizations interested in all genres of art.”
One of the subcommittee's first projects will be planning the return of a mural at Columbia Park. Artist Justin Blizzard created the original brightly colored, abstract work with the help of local youth. The mural was removed when the City built the Columbia Park Water Feature in 2009.
“We have a group of concerned youth in the Columbia Park area who have brought an idea of a handball wall with a new mural on it,” said Diaz. “They want it to be dedicated to lost loved ones.”
Although the timeline is unknown, this specific project is a high priority for the subcommittee.
“Murals speak to people in a powerful way and is an instrument to teach history, culture and language,” said Diaz. “Exposing different artistic modalities as a public mural painting will show the importance of how art reflects and influences the social, political and cultural development of different parts of Turlock.”
McDermott also thinks that diversity in public art is important.
"I would call for more public art. There is a need to make sure that public art is not just generic and cookie cutter, that is represents the community and showcases different styles," she said.
"There are so many parks and so many places for public art. Art is there for everybody; the whole idea is to have diversity."
Turlock is already on its way to a diverse public art representation. At City Hall, there is a stained glass window that depicts a Valley scene. The former Turlock Police Services building hosts two different public art pieces: Five Core Values and Kids Walk bronze medallions set in the walkway along the facility and Figure in Motion, a steel structure. The Armillary Sphere positioned on the corner of Monte Vista Avenue and Countryside Drive is also public art. And the City of Turlock celebrated its centennial in 2008 with the placement of a life-sized bronze statue of town founder, John Mitchell, in Central Park.
The PARC subcommittee is seeking input on possible public arts projects from all residents of Turlock. For more information or to make suggestions, contact Erik Schulze at the Recreation Division at 668-5594 or attend a Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission meeting. The commission meets at 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month in the Yosemite Room of City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.