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Spotlight to shine on Turlock’s public art projects
Calafia pic1
The Turlock Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission will make decisions about the Calafia statue’s water feature, former public arts pieces Energy Burst and Scandinavian Village statue which are now in disrepair and a proposal for a new mural at Columbia Park at their next meeting. - photo by Journal file photo

The fate of several public art pieces that represent the past, present and future of art projects in Turlock will be taken up Wednesday evening at the Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission meeting.

The commission will be making their recommendations to the Turlock City Council on the path forward for the proposed mural at Columbia Park, the future of two previously stored art pieces — the Energy Burst and the Scandinavian Village statue and whether or not Calafia’s water feature will continue to flow.

Columbia Park mural
The Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission will be making their recommendations to the Turlock City Council on the path forward for the proposed mural at Columbia Park.

The commission will review the public art application from Stanislaus State Art Professor Jacob Weigel for a mural at Columbia Park, funded in part by the Mayor’s Public Policy Award. For a few years Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth has been donating his mayoral salary to fund a public policy award in an effort to get Stanislaus State students actively involved in local issues. Weigel, along with his students, have been working with the public to generate ideas for the mural, particularly with the residents and children living around the park. The final draft will reflect the landscape and animals of California and features of the water park.

Weigel and CSUS Art Professor Susan Stephenson will be the advisors of the mural project if it is approved and students Mayra Cortez, Kolaya Wilson, Hayley Simon and Jasmine Diaz will be the artists.

The idea is to have the student artists outline the design of the mural on the wall and have volunteers help paint the larger sections. Once that is completed the artists will finish the smaller details of the mural to give it a professional finish.

The mural would be painted with an outdoor latex paint and have an acrylic coating to protect it from weather and graffiti. The estimated life of the mural would be between five to 10 years.

The commission can recommend the City council move forward with the project, or they can reject the project entirely or ask for changes to be made in the design. If the project does move forward, city staff will request $2,500 from the city to fund future maintenance and redesign costs.

Not preparing for maintenance costs is what has put the future of the Energy Burst and Scandinavian Village statue in jeopardy. On Wednesday, the commission will need to decide if they’re going to recommend the pieces be sold or recycled.

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.

“They tried to remove a piece of it, possibly for recycling,” said Turlock Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder in a previous presentation to the Turlock City Council on the current condition of the artwork.

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.

Scandinavian statue
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 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.

The commission will have to decide on whether to let the two pieces be sold, with the proceeds going into the city’s tourism fund and used for future art projects, or based on the vandalism and deterioration, have them recycled. Any finds from the recycling would also be put toward future public art projects.

The final public art decision the commission will take up is on whether or not to continue the water feature on the Calafia sculpture on W. Main Street. The sculpture, which is now 13 years old, has developed hard water stains over the years from the water that flows out of Calafia’s fingers. The water, which is recycled through the basin, is regularly treated with chlorine for health reasons and this has created a calcium build-up. In July the city authorized for a thorough cleaning of the sculpture, which did remove the stains.

If the commission recommends the water feature remain, then it will likely cost the city about $4,000 a year for the chlorine treatments and $3,200 every time the calcium build-up has to be cleaned off.

The other two options the commission will consider both involving removing the water feature from the sculpture. In the first option it would be turned into a flower bed and in the second the basin would have a tile covering placed over it, with the tile done in a style the coordinates with original design.

The commission’s meeting is open to the public. It will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Columbia Park at 600 Columbia Street.