When the Santa Clarita Valley is the canvas

Australian artist Emma Anna at the unveiling ceremony of her sculpture entitled "Imag_ne" on permanent display at the Valencia Library in Valencia on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

By Caleb Lunetta 

Signal Staff Writer  

Art may be everywhere you look for it, as the expression goes, and Santa Clarita has certainly tried to celebrate its artists and arts community when possible. 

Scattered throughout the SCV, as well as in a number of other SoCal communities, public art installations give residents and families an opportunity to view impressive works of art for free, whether during a cursory glance while driving by or taking the time to stand in front of it and closely examine.  

“Obviously, we hope the pieces are beautiful or attractive, and mostly they’re often celebrating our culture and … history,” said Phil Lantis, the city of Santa Clarita’s arts director. “But ultimately, art is about starting a conversation, having a discussion about, ‘What do you think they mean by that?’” 

And much like a museum, just without the price, the city of Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County and other officials have created accessible online “roadmaps” or tours for the public works of art in their given area, allowing even the most novice in the creative arts to know about a piece’s location, history and, if there are any, viewing times.  

City of Santa Clarita  

“One of the great things about public art is most of the artists working in the public art realm understand that their audience is not necessarily choosing with their feet; they’re not going to a gallery or museum,” Lantis said. “They understand that the communication (with the audience) is different because someone may just be strolling down the street and go, ‘Hey, what’s that about.’” 

Lantis said the city of Santa Clarita has striven to install pieces throughout the community, but emphasized that their selection process desires to educate people on the difference between public art and decoration.  

“To me, the biggest differentiation between a public art piece and ‘decoration,’ and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with decoration, but you look at a decoration and that’s the end of the story,” said Lantis. “But, usually with public art, that’s just the beginning.” 

Many people who live in the Santa Clarita have likely seen or heard of the six bear sculptures displayed throughout the city, and who were painted by artist Frank Rock with vibrant colors and pictures depicting Santa Clarita life.  

However, upon further inquiry, one would learn that each 10 foot long and 5 foot tall bear is painted with a different theme or historical anecdote representative of the culture and history of the local community.   

Other interesting art installations include the “Birds of Valencia,” an installation flying high over the artificial lake in the Bridgeport Marketplace on Newhall Ranch Road. 

Free to visit and viewable from the street or from the walking bridges over the water, the sculpture designed by Douwe Bloomberg includes 65 aluminum birds, each with a wingspan over five feet in the air. The project was described as a “unique engineering challenge,” but proven popular amongst residents and visitors alike, according to officials. 

A piece that if you blinked, you might miss it here in the Santa Clarita Valley, is “California Scape,” a sculpture housed at Fair Oaks Park on the 17000 block of Honey Maple Street. The Ozark light sandstone is designed to reflect the natural landscapes of the community, and a Chinese Elm tree is planted at its center.   

These are just a few of the installations Lantis says can be found around the community, and he encourages interested residents and even families with young children to get out and experience them in person.  

For more information about the information and locations for the city of Santa Clarita public art installations, visit their website at  https://scpublicart.goodbarber.app/. 

College of the Canyons 

Since the summer of 2014, the Rockwell Canyon Road campus has been a central hub for local artists wishing to explore various mediums and techniques, with the school housing its own art gallery with free admission to all those wishing to see their latest exhibit. 

But in addition to the art gallery, the COC can claim to have the largest collection of permanently installed Simi Dabah sculptures. The L.A.-based artist, for the last 40 years, has used industrial scrap metal welded together to create non-representational shapes, some reaching heights of 20-feet-tall, and meant to rust in the sun. 

“College of the Canyons is proud to have the largest collection of permanently installed Simi Dabah sculptures,” said Eric Harnish, spokesman for the college. “The Valencia campus features 18 pieces, and another four can be found at the Canyon Country campus.” 

Visitors to campus should first complete a college’s health screening available at https://www.canyons.edu/administration/pio/notices/healthlog.php. 

Around L.A. County  

Similar to Santa Clarita’s public arts tour, the county also has a series of displays for viewing.  

In addition to showcasing the “5 Up: 5-14-138 San Andreas Break” piece at the Castaic Skate Park, which functions as both an art installation and a quarter-pipe — the county’s website also features and informs about pieces in communities such as Downey, the city of Los Angeles, the Antelope Valley and more.  

New works are also being forged daily. For instance, Lina Evola, a nationally renowned artist and founder of the Peace Angeles Project, has partnered with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to melt down over 2,000 surrendered firearms and weapons. The materials found in the melted down weapons will then be repurposed to create 12, 11-foot Peace Angel monuments throughout Los Angeles. 

For more information about the county tour, visit lacountyarts.org. For more information about Peace Angeles Project, visit peaceangels.com. 

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