Three finalists chosen for Cal Ave fountain

Subcommittee narrows choices, public to vote in January

Ideas for a new fountain on California Avenue are flowing -- and the public will be able to weigh in on three finalists early next year.

Public Art Commission Staff Liason Elise DeMarzo said the commission's subcommittee on the fountain project (commissioners Ally Richter, Terry Acebo-Davis and Douglass Brown) met yesterday with her and a panel of four California Avenue-area community members, including vocal critic of the discarded Bruce Beasley sculpture plan Janet St. Peter and former Councilman Jack Morton, who works on California Avenue.

"This has been a particularly volatile issue so we want to make sure people feel involved," DeMarzo said.

At the meeting, the panelists perused "rough sketches" of five proposed replacement fountains chosen from those submitted in response to the art commission's Request for Proposals (RFP), sent out in late 2009.

DeMarzo said the RFP specified the proposed fountains conform to the desires of the community, gathered from public input earlier in the year. The winning fountain, she said, must provide a "splashy" water sound, be no larger than the current fountain so as to not impede bike and auto traffic and fit in well with the "spirit" of the site.

At the closed meeting Thursday (Nov. 4), the panel narrowed the selections from five to three, which will eventually be voted on by the public using the city's Open City Hall online program.

One proposal is similar to the current, traditional fountain, while the other two are more "sculptural" and "modern," respectively, she said.

"All three are very different so there are some good options," she said.

DeMarzo said once more detailed, developed proposals were received from the three final artists, images would be posted in various public places, including at City Hall. She said she hoped to have images posted before the holidays, along with artist statements.

California Avenue-area resident Ellen Wyman led the opposition to the proposed Beasley sculpture and argued in favor of keeping the existing fountain or replacing it with a similar, low-cost option. She criticized the commission for not making yesterday's meeting public and said she hopes the city will post images of the fountain finalists near the existing fountain, as well as publicize the different costs of the three choices.

Questioning the usefulness of Open City Hall, Wyman said, "It makes sense to have local people vote at or near the fountain."

The public will be able to vote on the proposals for the $50,000 project during the first half of January, DeMarzo said, with the Public Art Commission, which will make the final decision, then considering the public input during its January meeting.

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