Some eight years after San Mateo officials first envisioned a public art piece at one of the city’s gateways, a 4,200-pound stainless steel sculpture evoking the city’s history and natural features made its debut Friday at the corner of East Third Avenue and South Humboldt Street.
With rounded shapes symbolic of a horseshoe, wind on the Bay and an acorn of the people native to the land, among other images, affixed to a circular frame, the public art piece dubbed “Reflections” is aimed at helping viewers envision the city’s past and present, explained Oregon-based artist CJ Rench.
The piece’s position near Highway 101 and on a main city thoroughfare ensures those traveling into the city are welcomed each time they enter, whether it’s to visit or come home, noted Mayor Diane Papan.
“I really think that public art … gives us a sense of uniqueness,” she said. “It really shows what our aspirations are, and what our dreams are and what we think of community.”
Papan said the piece was funded by a public art in-lieu fund established by the city’s Art in Public Places Program. Put in place in 2005, the ordinance calls for a half-percent fee based on the valuation of a redeveloped property worth at least $3 million. Developers must either install work on their sites or pay an in-lieu fee reserved for acquisition of public art.
Having worked on the piece since he was selected as its artist in 2014, Rench was pleased to see it come to life on the corner bordered by large evergreens and positioned at the city gateway. To design the sculpture, he said he drew shapes as he was learning about the city’s history and used those images to form plans for art piece, which he said was shipped in three pieces from Oregon and welded together in San Mateo.
Because public art has always caught Rench’s attention on his travels, he has gravitated toward working on that to create pieces memorable for everyone who encounters them.
“I like to try and create something that encourages people to come back and view it over time,” he said.
Having been focused on coordinating the project’s progress for several years, Heather Stewart, a senior management analyst for San Mateo, said the installation of the piece has required the assistance of several city departments, including the Parks and Recreation and Police departments. Situated next to San Mateo Creek, the site’s soil proved somewhat challenging for crews, who ultimately used 18-foot r to secure the sculpture, said Stewart. She noted the creation of a piece large enough to be seen by drivers and pedestrians and install it near the creek took many months and the help of many.
“It reflects San Mateo, it’s a nice welcome and it has some history to it,” she said.
Chris Massey, who served on the city’s Civic Arts Committee when the piece was recommended to the City Council in 2014, was also gratified to see the piece in person after having followed its progress over the years.
“It’s very gratifying to see after all this time,” he said. “I think it’s going to grace the city for many years to come.”
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