By Michele E. Buttelman
Dotted throughout the landscape of Santa Clarita residents will stumble upon poetry etched in concrete, brightly painted murals and striking artistic sculptures.
The visible handiwork of the Santa Clarita Arts Commission can be found at nearly 100 locations throughout the city.
From “California Scape” located in Fair Oaks Park in Canyon Country to “Crossroads” at the Iron Horse Trailhead in Valencia the art encompasses a variety of sizes, styles and genres.
In 2009 the Santa Clarita City Council founded the Santa Clarita Arts Commission.
Current members of the Santa Clarita Arts Commission: Chair Susan Shapiro, Vice-Chair April Scott-Goss, Patti Rassmusen, Andrea Vibe and
Dr. Michael Millar.
Millar was the founding Chair of the Arts Commission in 2009. He has served on the commission since its inception.
Commissioner Patti Rassmusen, who has served on the commission since 2013, said she is passionate about arts education.
“I’ve seen what the arts can do for those kids who don’t want to play sports, who have this side to them that we need to encourage,” she said. “Seeing what public art can do for a community is eye-opening and amazing. We are so lucky to have a city council that embraces art. I am proud of our town.”
Arts Master Plan
In fall 2016, the Santa Clarita City Council approved the Arts Master Plan, which has become the Arts Commission’s guiding document to provide arts, entertainment and cultural development throughout the city.
As part of the plan the following vision statement was issued:
“The City of Santa Clarita will be recognized as a ‘city of the arts,’ where the lives of residents, artists and visitors are enriched through artistic and cultural experiences.”
The plan mandated that public art planning and selection utilizes peer review and community input to ensure that public art pieces meet the goals of providing enjoyable and attractive public spaces that reflect the character of the community.
Susan Shapiro, Arts Commission Chair, said the implementation of an Arts Master Plan was a milestone for the commission.
“The Master Plan made it possible to show the city’s commitment to public art,” she said. “In addition, the Arts Master Plan is an important way to show support for artists in the community.”
Shapiro said it is crucial to make experiences with art and culture accessible to everyone in the community.
One of Shapiro’s hopes for the future is to see the development of artist’s live-work space.
“We need to do more to support artists that live in our community and want to work in our community,” she said. “One of the important things the arts commission can do is show the arts community in Santa Clarita that they are valued.”
Public art in Santa Clarita includes more than 25 sculptures of which three are temporary installations.
The most recent installations are located at the new Canyon Country Community Center, 18410 Sierra Highway, Canyon Country, CA 91351.
The pieces include “Communitree” and “Circle Song,” a mural completely comprised of handmade glazed ceramic tiles, including tiles created by Santa Clarita residents.
Also located at the community center is the “Iconic Gas Pump Bike Rack.” A functional artwork that serves as a bike rack. Incorporated into the bike rack is a service station for minor bike repairs including a pump and tools, said Shapiro.
Among Santa Clarita’s other notable sculpture installations are “Fire Pit” located at Fire Station 156 in Valencia, “IMAG_NE” at the Valencia Library, “Willie Johnston” at Newhall Veteran’s Historical Plaza and “Saugus Memorial Obelisks,” two obelisks covered in 28,000 Italian mosaic glass tiles honoring the two students killed in the 2919 Saugus High School shooting.
Numerous public art projects were installed in Santa Clarita prior to the establishment of the Arts Commission including the 2006 Art Can Project. The painted 55-gallon steel drums are used as functional art and located in Newhall.
One of Santa Clarita’s first art installations was the 1994 water feature at the Santa Clarita Metrolink Station.
The California Bear Project, developed in August 2004 by the city, has installed life-sized fiberglass representations of a California Grizzly Bear from 2005 to 2018 throughout Santa Clarita.
Among the 15 murals and paintings in Santa Clarita are a series of wall murals painted in 2007 in Newhall on Main Street that commemorate Santa Clarita’s western heritage. Art also adorns the Santa Clarita Skate Park and Aquatics Center, public libraries and other locations.
The 30 installations of sidewalk poetry are spread throughout Santa Clarita waiting to be found like hidden gems in the dust. The Santa Clarita Sidewalk Poetry 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 be stamped on damaged sidewalks that are being repaired.
Three additional sculptures are awaiting installation at the Canyon Country Community Center. The steel artworks, “In the Wind,” “Amongst the Wildflowers” and “Canyon Sunrise” by H&E Design will represent the Western scrub-jay, wildflowers and the canyon sunrise, which were inspired by Santa Clarita’s surroundings.
Currently, Santa Clarita has issued a call for artists to design a mural for the newly opened Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station on Golden Valley Road.
Shapiro said the Vista Canyon Metrolink Station will also include an art installation honoring the Chinese immigrants who worked on the railroad in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Arts Commission meets on the second Thursday of the month, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 1st floor of City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita, CA 91355.
To find all the public art locations in Santa Clarita visit https://santaclaritaarts.com/publicart/