Stamped in sidewalks across the Santa Clarita Valley are more than two dozen poems, each exemplifying the various aspects that make the SCV feel like home.
For the past three years, the city of Santa Clarita has called for short poem entries for its Sidewalk Poetry project that use the SCV’s landscape and environment as an inspiration.
And each year, poets consist of local residents or those with ties to the SCV who share the unique bits of the local community through their submissions.
The program is a collaboration with the city’s Department of Public Works as part of a sidewalk rehabilitation program, with around 10 poems selected each year to place on damaged sidewalks that are being repaired across the valley.
Among those winning poets for 2021 is 10-year-old Sophie Rundus, whose haiku was placed near the intersection of Kirstengary Way and Milano Lane in Valencia.
“We lived in Washington a few years ago, and it’s really cold and rainy there, so when I moved here it was really hot, so that’s how I came up with my poem,” Sophie said.
Sophie was the only 2021 winner selected who was under 18, which Katherine Nestved, city of Santa Clarita arts coordinator, noted was a big deal.
“Every year we have a completely new committee and the committee chooses how they would like to view and score the poems,” Nestved said. “Last year, they wanted to look at all the poems together and not break them up by age categories, and so Sophie competed with all the adults, everyone was on the same playing field, so it was really very cool to have her poem selected.”
Sophie and her dad, Josh Rundus, both entered the Sidewalk Poetry contest, and it was one of many pandemic art projects the pair spent their free time working on.
“We really bonded as a family on a lot of art projects,” Josh Rundus said.
And whether it was painting, poetry or even creating a giant pencil out of a tree limb — which was Sophie’s favorite — they had fun letting their creativity loose, they both agreed.
“I call her the poet laureate of Santa Clarita,” Rundus said of his daughter’s poetry win. “She’s been a great reader since she was young, and I think that helped with her vocabulary quite a bit. She’s pretty confident with words.”
For Sophie, it feels really good to not only have her poem as a permanent art piece on display but also to have beaten her dad in the contest, she said.
“I think it inspired her and gave her more confidence,” Sophie’s mom Ally Wang said, adding that it’s given her the encouragement to feel comfortable putting herself out there.
In fact, the Runduses have also had a wooden American flag displayed at City Hall for the Fourth of July and recently applied for another of the city’s public art projects.
The city of Santa Clarita is always looking for new ways to showcase local talent, with various ongoing public art projects where calls to enter are always free, Nestved noted, adding that the Sidewalk Poetry project is once again open for submissions.
“It’s not just for poets, it’s for our community to share how they feel about living in Santa Clarita and what the city has done for them,” Nestved added of the project. “So, it’s really open to everyone and I would encourage anyone who would like to apply to apply because you just never know what the committee is looking for and what they’re going to pick.”
Amateur and professional writers alike are encouraged to submit short poems of a maximum of 160 characters, including spaces, to be considered for the 2022 project, of which this year’s theme is, “What is a home?”
Each submitted poem should reflect on connection to physical and or emotional spaces, while short poem submissions may be free or rhyming verse.
Only one entry per individual may be submitted during the contest, and team entries are not permitted. However, past applicants are welcome to submit.
Selected winners are set to receive monetary compensation of a $150 stipend and have the opportunity to meet to discuss their work with a professor of poetry, as well as be recognized on the city’s website and public art app directory.
2022 Sidewalk Poetry submissions are due Tuesday, Nov. 30. Already installed poetry pieces can be located on the city’s Public Art directory. For more information, visit scpublicart.goodbarber.app/art-pieces/c/0, or to enter the Sidewalk Poetry contest, visit santaclaritaarts.com/sidewalkpoetry.