Oceanside commission pushing for more art (2024)

OCEANSIDE — Summer concerts, sculptures around town and a Website publicizing cultural events are just a few ways a citycommission plans to infuse more public art and performances intoOceanside.

The city’s nine-member Art Commission voted last week torecommend that the City Council develop policies that would resultin more public artworks and performances throughout the city.

“Rather than art being an afterthought, we want it to beintegral in every decision considered by the city,” said commissionChairman John McDonald.

McDonald said the commission wants the city to push forsculptures, murals and other forms of public art for everythingfrom the Sprinter light-rail line — scheduled to start runningfrom Escondido to Oceanside by the end of the year — to housingprojects, parks and the redevelopment of downtown.

The commissioners said they don’t want to dictate what style ofart to put in town, and the goal is to encourage a diverse body ofworks throughout all parts of the city.

“It will make Oceanside prettier and a more interesting place tovisit,” said longtime commission member B.J. Witz. “It will giveresidents a pride of ownership, and anytime there is pride itimproves the community.”

Since its inception in 1991, the commission has brought manypieces of public art to Oceanside, said Witz.

She noted, for example, that Oceanside has a surfer sculpturenear the railroad underpass in downtown, historical signs nearMartin Luther King Jr. Middle School, a statue on the southern endof the city near the railroad tracks, bird sculptures hanging inthe library and a tile project planned for the Libby Lake CommunityCenter.

Witz said the commission has launched a new push for more publicart under the dynamic leadership of McDonald.

“We needed someone like John (McDonald) to take the bull by thehorns,” Witz said. “He has provided the leadership we needed.”

Upcoming art projects

McDonald and his fellow commissioners have created acomprehensive list of projects to tackle in the coming months withits $25,000 annual budget.

The commission wants to bring back a “concert in the parks”series this summer that ended a few years ago. About $7,500 hasbeen set aside for two performances this summer, and the commissionis working with the parks and recreation staff on the project.

“Ultimately, we want to get the groups in each music genre thatare defined as the best by those in the field,” said McDonald, whosaid the performances would feature a variety of types of musicsuch as jazz or Samoan.

The commission also has budgeted $5,000 to help bring atheatrical or performing arts group to one of the city’s twoperforming-arts theaters downtown or the City Hall area.

To let residents and art enthusiasts know about cultural eventsin the city, the commission is pushing for a Web site to promoteand publicize activities. The commission has agreed to contribute$2,500 to designing and launching a Web site with the OceansideCultural Arts Foundation, a nonprofit group promoting the arts.

Commissioners said the Web site could also provide a means forgroups to contact more residents about their events to conductsurveys and to link artists with organizations with artprojects.

“It’s really going to take a lot of people working together,”said Carolyn Mickelson, an art commissioner and board member of thenonprofit organization. “We are trying to make it so that we areall more of one community working together.”

To enhance the city’s visual arts, the commission has set aside$5,000 for sculptures, benches or historical markers along thecoastal rail trail, a path that runs along the railroad tracks. Thecommissioners are in the process of brainstorming ideas for artalong the trail.

The art commission, MainStreet Association, a nonprofit advocacygroup for the downtown area, a developer and the city are workingon including art with new kiosks downtown designed to providedirections to key sites.

The first kiosk is planned for the corner of Pier View Way andPacific Street, and the developer of the time-share projects on theproperty is working with city staffers, MainStreet and artorganizations on including an evaluated sculpture next to thekiosk.

MainStreet Director Kim Heim said last week that developersbenefit from having artworks with their projects because they helpattract more visitors and improve the character of the street.

“It’s the private sector’s burden to put art in the area,” Heimsaid. “The commission is setting up the groundwork to encouragebusinesses to start joining the art initiative.”

The commission as a part of it recommendation last week hasasked the City Council to direct staffers evaluating projects toinclude an analysis of possible art enhancements. The reports nowinclude an analysis of the surrounding area, financial impact andlegal issues.

McDonald said every project won’t have an art component but thatby including an art analysis in staff reports it keeps city leadersmindful of art possibilities when they’re voting ondevelopments.

“If you aren’t part of the process, you tend to get ignored,”McDonald said. “This would be a way to ensure the processworks.”

City leaders weigh in

Several Oceanside City Council members said last week theysupport the idea of including more art in projects around thecity.

“My recommendation is to make art a component of every decisionwe make,” said Rocky Chavez, who serves as the council liaison onthe art commission. “Art should be part of the discussion.”

Chavez said he doesn’t think the city should require builders toinclude an art project, but that the city should applaud and praiseprojects that include more cultural elements.

The council agreed to give the Oceanside Museum of Art a $1million grant in 2005 for the expansion of the facility next to theCivic Center in downtown. The two-phase expansion of the5,000-square-feet museum is under way. The first phase will add16,000 square feet to the museum and is expected to be complete in2008.

The expansion will give the museum more space to display art andprovide programs for North County residents.

Councilman Jack Feller, who served as the liaison to the artcommission last year, said art helps “define a community.”

“The bottom line though is, ‘How does it get paid for?’ ” saidFeller.

Escondido requires developers to pay a fee toward public artwhen building projects. For every square foot built after the first2,000 square feet, the developer must contribute 30 cents. Forexample, a developer would pay $11,400 for a 40,000-square-footproject.

Susan Pollack, who serves as a public art consultant forEscondido, said the city receives about $100,000 from developerseach year for art. Since enacting the fee in 1986, about 22 publicart projects have been built throughout the city, including aninteractive play sculpture at Grape Day Park near City Hall.

“It makes the city a much more attractive and viable place forboth business and residents,” Pollack said. “It brings people totown and becomes a tourism and economic component.”

The art commission in Vista is considering asking developers tocontribute to a public fund, but in Oceanside the art commissionhas focused on encouraging, rather than mandating, that developersto add art to their projects.

Pollack said forcing developers to pay for art could becontroversial, and that the art commission in Oceanside appears tohave adopted a safe and effective approach to bringing more art tothe community.

“Oceanside is doing it the right way,” Pollack said. “The maingoal is to get the community and city council to understand theimpact of public art.”

Contact staff writer David Sterrett at (760) 901-4067 ordsterrett@nctimes.com.

Oceanside commission pushing for more art (2024)

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