“We are not looking for a statue of Paris Hilton,” Mayor Pro-Tem Laurie Ender said with just a hint of sarcasm.
This should come as relief to those wondering just what piece of “iconic” artwork will be placed at the proposed Old Town Newhall roundabout.
Of course, a statue of Ms. Hilton was never under consideration. However, these questions came up for discussion at the last city council meeting: what would the erected artwork look like; how much does “iconic” art cost; and should the recently appointed Arts Commission be consulted.
“I’m an Arts Commission convert,” said Council Member Frank Ferry. He likened the Arts Commission to other commissions in the city that meet, make decisions and then present them to the city council.
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“We can either accept their opinion and advice or make changes,” Ferry said.
Council Member Bob Keller concurred, “I think the community would be disappointed if we made this decision without community input, especially the Arts Commission.”
Arts Commission Vice-Chairman Paul Strickland appreciated the confidence displayed by the city council.
“That was just a wonderful, wonderful decision,” Strickland said.
Since the adoption of the Downtown Newhall Specific Plan in 2005, the City Council/Redevelopment Agency has been implementing revitalization efforts for Old Town Newhall.
One of the city’s priorities, identified in the Specific Plan, was to change the character of the area by reconfiguring traffic flow with the construction of a roundabout at the intersections of 5th Street, Newhall Avenue and Main Street.
“Within this roundabout will be an iconic piece of public art that will symbolize Old Town Newhall’s heritage,” the city said.
The operative and undefined term is “iconic.”
“I’m glad they used that word. It reinforced my opinion that it is the centerpiece, and it should be something really nice. Iconic sort of implies that, don’t you think?” Strickland said.
“Iconic is in the eye of the beholder,” added City Manager Ken Pulskamp.
And while “iconic” may be the goal, others questioned the cost.
“Everyone is striving to do something amazing, but can we get this done for $45,000?” asked Council Member Laurene Weste.
Kellar said, “Let’s keep an open attitude on cost.”
Mayor Marsha McLean thought there needed to be more funding, and suggested the Downtown Newhall Specific Plan Council sub-committee could look for more money.
McLean also wanted to emphasize that the artwork needed to be historic, and she wanted the subcommittee to take the lead because of their historical background.
Ender eased any discomfort with giving the project to the Arts Commission by emphasizing that they’ll need to come back to the city council with an arts proposal that’s historic, and if the city council hates it, “we’re not married to it.”
Ultimately, Pulskamp said he understood the city council wanted to keep the dollar amount vague. He also said that the Arts Commission will devise a selection process to present historically relevant artwork options, and that they will keep the city council informed.
“This will be the biggest piece they will ever weigh in on,” McLean said, referring to the Arts Commission.
“They’ll do a fine job,” said Kellar.