The Brentwood City Council delayed approving a proposed modernistic stainless-steel sculpture near a senior community after hearing some passionate pleas against it on Tuesday night.
The $192,000 public art spaces project was selected by an ad-hoc committee on an arts commission recommendation after a two-year process that included a national search. It was set to be built on Balfour Road just east of the Highway 4 bypass interchange, but residents and some council members questioned the design and location near the Summerset senior community and the Brentwood Golf Club.
Seth Palmiter of Motivated Metal of Maine had proposed creating the 20-foot high, 57-foot-long structure in perforated steel in a palette of sunset colors to reflect the vibrant Mt. Diablo sunsets he had seen on his visits here. The artwork, which featured numerous triangular shapes to reflect other mountain-like shapes throughout the city, would be elevated to avoid structural damage from any car crashes, according to the staff report.
The structure would be paid by developer fees that can only be used for public art projects. If not used, the money would have to be returned to the developers.
Kris Farro, city recreation manager, said the artist drove around “to decide what was a good fit for our community.” But others didn’t think the artwork represented Brentwood.
“Oh my, it’s awful,” resident Rod Flohr said of the proposed artwork. “….It reflects a trend in municipal artwork in just putting up soulless abstract artwork that has no meaning, no connection to the community.”
“If we’ve got $200,000 to spend on an art structure, why not get a piece of art that says something? You could put up a statue of Martin Luther King, or of Mayor Bob Taylor and that would say more about Brentwood than this thing.”
Frances Webster also expressed her displeasure.
“When I saw the picture and the amount of money of this on social media, it absolutely sent my blood pressure to a boil,” she said. “I love statuary. “I love art… I love public art, but I want it to say something, I want it to connect with the people. This might be good for somebody who’s into total contemporary but his is a farming community.”
Webster also said the proposed sculpture location near a senior community and golf course is not a good fit.
“This doesn’t say anything to that type of person in my opinion,” she said. “I’m totally opposed to this type of art. It’s not what Brentwood is all about. It might be the new Brentwood, but it’s not what I moved here for.”
Farro pointed out, however, that the first public space art project, which is being built on Brentwood Boulevard, is a nod to the city’s agricultural past.
“I think the arts commission was thinking to do a little nod to the past and a little nod to our future,” she said.
Farro said the public art spaces project was originally a gateway project with welcoming artwork at the four entrances to Brentwood, but over time, the theme switched to simply public art, with city leaders realizing those entrances could change as the city expands.
Councilwoman Karen Rarey agreed the planned artwork location near the golf course overhead bridge was “odd.” She asked the staff to look for different locations.
Mayor Bob Taylor asked about other sketches of potential artwork. “I can’t recognize bad art or good art. Did anyone else submit any other artwork?”
Farro said this was the artist’s second round of designs. His work was picked over 125 other artist’s submissions.
“I don’t think I like the location of this, but I am sure there are other parts of the city where this might look good in or fit better in,” Taylor said.
Vice Mayor Joel Bryant also suggested the council hold off on approving the design and look at other locations for the artwork.
“It’s much easier to take a little more time to find something that is more in tune with the flow of an area or in touch with what the community can relate to. ”
The council unanimously agreed to delay a decision until staff returns with alternate locations for the project.