During August, an art sculpture was placed in the street median at the so-called gateway location, another in the Seaplane Lagoon waterfront park.
These two projects satisfy the city’s public art requirement in the development deal for Site A, which stipulated that the developer spend $300,000 on public art. The budget for the gateway artwork was $100,000, and $200,000 for the waterfront park project.
In order to select its artists, the developer, Alameda Point Partners, conducted a Request for Qualifications process for the two sites at Alameda Point. The process generated 172 submissions, which were reviewed by an evaluation panel of six Alameda community members, design professionals, and stakeholders. The panel then selected seven finalists to create proposals, offering an honorarium of $1,500 to each finalist. After reviewing the proposals, the panel conducted one round of follow-up questions before making their selections.
Shipshape art sculpture is planted in street median
The second of two public art installations was completed at Alameda Point’s Site A mixed-use development on Thursday, August 18. The three-piece steel project is named Alameda Afore, meaning before, and is situated in the median of West Atlantic Avenue. The work was created by artist Rodrigo Nava at his studio in Vermont. His work was selected by the Public Art Commission in March of 2020
“Alameda Afore reflects its surrounding environment and history. Its shapes are evocative of the bow of a ship, or the A in Alameda, and its material is a nod to the area’s industrial past,” states the staff report to the arts commission. “At the same time, the artwork leaves room for the viewer to experience and develop his/her own interpretation of the artwork.”
To appreciate the bow-of-a-ship shape, imagine the ship being vertical, looking like teepees. To passing traffic, the sculptures seem undersized and get lost against the backdrop of a three-story condo complex and nearby trees. The shrub in front of the sculptures doesn’t help either.
A beacon of art rises at Seaplane Lagoon Park
Meanwhile, over at the new waterfront park, artist DeWitt Godfrey was on hand a few weeks ago to supervise the installation of his artwork named Beken. The nearly 40-foot-tall steel sculpture is meant to be a highly visible landmark that will serve to orient park-goers, as well as visitors and residents embarking and returning by ferry.
On Monday, August 8, the top section was lowered into place by a crane.
This was followed by finishing touches during the remainder of the week, such as grinding down rough edges.
The project was approved by the Public Art Commission in July 2020 after the artist modified the height of the bottom sections to make them taller and more difficult to climb.
“The name of the sculpture is Beken. It’s old English for beacon,” said Godfrey. “The site seemed to want something like a lighthouse, or an air pylon, or an air tower.”
Left to interpretation by the viewer, the complex of rounded shapes could represent all of the hoops that the city has had to jump through to get to this milestone in base redevelopment.
The structure is composed of about 120 separate elements that range in size from 10 inches in diameter to almost 10 feet in diameter. “The whole thing weighs about 15,000 pounds,” said Godfrey. “It was all fabricated at our studio in upstate New York, assembled, and then broken down into pieces that would fit on two flatbed trailers that were driven cross country.”
After designing the structure on computer, the software then “unrolls” the shapes into flat patterns that are laser cut. “Then we roll them into shape,” said Godfrey. “We have a four-roll hydraulic bender. There’s no heat, it’s just cold bending.”
This is the tallest piece that Godfrey has installed to date but not the heaviest. “We just finished a project in Denver that weighs about twice as much and spans a road and a bike path,” said Godfrey. “Each piece is done in collaboration with the community, the selection panel, and the client to find the right form, the right solution for each site.”
The design was also reviewed for structural soundness. “It’s completely engineered for the very stringent seismic regulations here, and wind,” said Godfrey.
Lights in the plaza will shine up inside at night. “The footlights have not yet been programmed, but our parks maintenance staff is working on it, and we anticipate turning them on in the next one to two weeks,” said Amy Wooldridge, Alameda Recreation and Park Department (ARPD) Director.
“As of now, there is no commissioned art set to be included in the next phase of the waterfront park,” said Wooldridge. “However, as part of the City’s Public Art Master Planning process, ARPD is working with the Public Art Program to identify potential sites for future public art. The next phase of the waterfront park may include a site or sites as a part of this process.”
“Public art is an integral part of any community space and particularly a park,” said Wooldridge. “I’m thrilled that, thanks to the City’s Public Art Fund, Alamedans will find a growing number of art pieces in our parks.”
The City plans to hold an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the two works of art in the next month or so, according to Wooldridge.