Local News

Public art a changing exhibit, booster says

By From page A1 | February 21, 2014


"Stan the Submerging Man," by artist Finley Fryer, used to light up the corner of First and E streets in downtown Davis. A new 18-foot-dog sculpture made of recycled materials is destined for the site. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise file photo

He came in a rush with fanfare and that love-at-first-sight kind of brightness that lit up the sidewalk when you were next to him at night. During the past couple of years he was a steadfast presence, in your mind a familiar fixture that would forever be where you saw him.

But he made no promises to you. And now, suddenly, he’s gone off to other admirers.

Is “Stan, the Submerging Man” — a towering, luminous work of art formerly at the corner of First and E streets — the public statue world’s version of a rake? This week he was dismantled and carted away, destined for a sculpture show.

Not such a rake, says John Natsoulas, owner of the John Natsoulas Gallery where Stan stood in front. Stan remains the property of his creator Finley Fryer, Natsoulas said, and all the people who have been angry with the gallery that Stan is gone have forgotten that the city doesn’t own the sculptures and they were always meant to be changed out every couple of years.

During the next year or so, public sculptures throughout downtown Davis will be switched out for new ones, ready for a whole new tour and a whole new audience — as was promised when they went in. The most any piece will stay put is three years, Natsoulas said.

“The sculptures are not owned by the city of Davis,” he said. “The sculptures are not put up by the city of Davis.”

And that’s the point. The art legally belongs to the artists, not the community. Still, local artists are busy making replacements.

Soon, a Yeti sculpture will go in downtown. In the spring, an 18-foot-tall dog made of recyclable materials will replace Stan, once again tempting passing students and downtown visitors to think of it as permanent, when the whole time its eyes will wander.

But this is no time for jealousy. The Davis public art world is bursting at the seams. There’s a 130-foot-long mural at the F Street garage due to be painted by the community next weekend with plans for artistic benches built around the garage next summer.

More importantly for Natsoulas, the city has blessed the project so it can happen.

“The obstructionists are all gone and the (City) Council is for us,” he said. “This is not art. This is community.”

There will be a new Davis Art Walk map available on April 15, showing all-new paths to the works, some of which will be interactive with cell phones using RFID tags.

Roughly two years ago, state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, emceed the kickoff event for the first transmedia walking tour of public art in Davis, which heralded the installation of five new art pieces around town, with the promise of more than 10 more.

It was meant to be a single project, Natsoulas said, but the community emerged to be a part of more. More murals, more sculptures, more celebration of the city through art.

“I think things have changed,” he said. “The psychology has changed. The city needs to allow things to happen and the community wants to do these things.”

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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