By Toan P. Do
City on a Hill Press Reporter
At the beginning of last quarter, Crystal Burns, head of the Santa Cruz public arts commission, approached UC Santa Cruz public art professor Dee Hibbert-Jones. Burns proposed a commission for a public art sculpture in honor of the AMGEN Tour of California that will be passing through Santa Cruz this Presidents’ Day weekend.
“Crystal Burns is the woman running the public arts commission,” Hibbert-Jones said. “She and I have worked on a couple projects before and they have been really great.”
For the past two quarters, Hibbert-Jones has taken on the role of facilitator in her Public Art 1 and 2 classes. This time she has successfully united her students in order to take on this ambitious commission from the city.
Spearheading this collaboration of art students are third-year art major Paul Hempstead and fourth-year art majors Scott French and Dana Ashton, all former students of Hibbert-Jones.
“This really was a joint collective project,” Ashton said. “It’s a complete collaboration, and in no way one person’s project or one person’s genius.”
“The bike culture of Santa Cruz is really what brought everybody together and is what got the classes interested and involved in it,” Ashton said. “As soon as we mentioned having a sculpture made out of recycled bike parts everybody started getting really excited about it.”
The sculpture itself will stand about 15 feet tall and be made completely out of used bicycle components. The most exciting part about the sculpture is that it is both stationary and kinetic.
“The sculpture itself is a circular sculpture coming up in three tiers,” Ashton said. “We’ve also geared the back so that the bottom now has a bike attached to the front part of the outer base and that bike is what one person sits on. As they pedal, the gear turns a chain that goes up through a camshaft that actually rotates the entire top part.”
It has been a long and stressful three months trying to get to the finish line for this ambitious project.
“The hardest thing was probably the bureaucracy last quarter,” French said. “[It was] just a lot of e-mails, phone calls, and meetings with the city. Since [the sculpture] is going to be in a public space, it is going to require a lot of elements that are really safe. The city didn’t want to be held accountable for any injuries or anything like that. So there was real pressure to make it safe.”
However, as an artist collective, Public Arts 1 and 2 have banded together to create something truly unique about Santa Cruz’s bicycle culture that the city can be proud of.
“The most beautiful thing for me is being able to see the project go from design to reality,” Hempstead said. “That is almost entirely credited to the class who has been putting a lot of work into the design.”
The artists look forward to seeing it all come together at the finish line of the race.
“I feel that the bike culture was the spur of all of this,” Ashton said. “It just got everybody excited about it, got everybody involved in this, and got everybody on the same page and willing to work together.”
To see more information about the sculpture and Public Art classes, visit art.ucsc.edu/public_art.
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