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Dig in! Shovel donations sought for city/campus art project

Artist Christopher Fennell is framed by his sculpture, "Bats Baseball," which features 600 used baseball bats and welcomes guests to Southside Park in Atlanta. He will create a similar structure — a 16-foot-tall, vine-inspired gateway made of twisted steel pipes and 400 used shovel heads — for a site at the east end of the UC Davis Arboretum near downtown Davis. Courtesy photo

You can help

What: Donate your used shovels of all sizes for use in a public sculpture

When and where: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays at the Davis Parks and General Services Department, 1818 Fifth St., and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, April 6 and May 18, and Sunday, April 28, at the Friends of the Arboretum spring plant sales at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive at UC Davis

By Katie Hetrick

The city of Davis and the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden are offering community members a chance to leave a permanent mark on the community as they seek to collect 400 used spades, gardening trowels and shovels of all kinds. They’ll be used in a campus and city outdoor art sculpture scheduled for completion this fall.

Shovels will be collected between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays at the city’s Public Works Department, 1818 Fifth St., and at the Arboretum’s spring plant sales, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, April 6, April 28 and May 18. The sales at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive across from the UCD Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital.

Artist Christopher Fennell will take recycling to new heights at the east end of the Arboretum when he builds a 16-foot-tall, vine-inspired gateway out of twisted steel pipes and 400 used shovel heads. Funded by the city of Davis Municipal Arts Fund, this landmark sculpture will mark the transition between downtown Davis and the Arboretum and serve as a symbol of town-gown collaboration.

The history of this project dates back to 2011, when, at the recommendation of the Davis Civic Arts Commission, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal to allocate $40,000 toward the development of a sculptural gateway feature at the east end of the Arboretum. The proposal, stewarded by Emily Griswold, director of GATEways horticulture and teaching gardens for the UCD Arboretum and Public Garden, represents the first city art project on campus land.

The sculpture project dovetails with city and campus goals to improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation connections and help promote and market the campus and downtown area as an arts destination. Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk has supported the project from the beginning.

“I am so excited to see this project come to fruition,” he said. “It will further connect downtown Davis and the campus and will serve as a focal point for residents, UC Davis students and visitors to Davis for years to come.”

Last year a committee of campus, city and community representatives selected Fennell from an applicant pool of 66 artists from around the nation to design and build the sculpture. Fennell — a sculptor from Alabama with an engineering background — specializes in the creation of large-scale public art from dramatic collections of cast-off materials.

“At a distance, this gateway will look like vine-inspired ironwork, but up close the viewer will notice that the vine leaves are actually used shovel heads,” Fennell said. “The diversity of shapes, sizes and rusty patterns on used shovel heads collected from the community will give the sculpture a richness and character that would be unattainable with new materials.”

Added Griswold, “The use of shovels to build a sculpture in the Arboretum has special resonance because of all the shovels that have been used by staff, students and community members to plant the garden’s collections.

“We’d love for donors to give a second life to their shovels through this project, but we don’t want to leave them shovel-free just as spring arrives. So, when you drop off a shovel at one of our locations, you’ll receive a coupon from locally owned Davis Ace Hardware good for 15 percent off the purchase of a new shovel. It’s a great excuse to treat yourself to a new piece of hardware!”

Kathleen Socolofsky, director of the UCD Arboretum and Public Garden and assistant vice chancellor at UCD, is thrilled with the timing of this project.

“The UC Davis Arboretum has just finished celebrating its 75th year and is moving forward as the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden,” she said. “As we begin to plan what our future holds for the campus, city and community, this sculpture embodies the shared involvement with our region we believe will serve as a standard for all our projects, not just in the Arboretum, but throughout our university landscapes.”

For more information on Fennell, visit www.cfennell.org. For more on the plant sales, visit www.arboretum.ucdavis.edu/plant_sales_and_nursery.aspx.

Special to The Enterprise

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