Free $250K Gift of Art to City: Three Say No!

In a vote of 3—Terry Gaasterland, Tracy Martinez, Dan Quirk— to 2, the sculpture “Octetra” by internationally known artist Isamu Noguchi, offered at no cost to the city, was turned down at the Monday, May 1 City Council meeting that was set to clarify the procedure for public comment on possible sculptures, a 60-day period previously unanimously agreed upon by the City Council.


On Thursday afternoon, April 27, Hershell Price had sent out an email in advance of the May 1 City Council meeting falsely stating that a private citizen not on the Arts Advisory Committee (AAC) led the selection process. The email was an alarmist call to arms to tackle the threat of art. He asked for “red dots” objecting ahead of the May 1 meeting—without asking for any information about the selections or understanding that no city money was involved. This information was in place ready to be part of the upcoming public comment 60-day period.


In fact, the AAC, a city committee with members appointed by the City Council, with meetings open to the public, chose the selections. The AAC has produced an Art Map of possible sites for art in the City, and it follows the Council-adopted Art Policy’s criteria for reviewing and selecting art, that focuses on artistic merit and eliminates unsafe, obscene, religious, overtly provocative, unsuitable for children, non-inclusive art.


This Arts Advisory Committee rough mockup (not to exact scale) shows Octetra in the proposed Civic Center plaza location.


Since its formation the AAC has curated and put in place five temporary art sculptures and produced art shows in Town Hall, free to the public, featuring local artists, allowing citizens to come together and enjoy and reflect on works by many artists. The in-place sculptures that enliven the city today, the art shows and proposed sculptures for the Civic Center have been sponsored by the Del Mar Foundation and private money. Unlike most cities that support art, there is no city budget or city money involved.


The AAC, with the approval of the City Council to seek out art for the Civic Center, presented three selections. The first choice, the sculpture “Octetra” or any of the other two, would have brought a focus to the south end of the city, drawing art interested visitors, allowing gatherings, informal and formal.


The Civic Center’s architect, Mike Jobes, wrote a strong statement about how Octetra, the committee’s #1 selection, was suitable for the Civic Center, with architectural compatibility, a color that echoes the vivid sunsets of the Pacific, and an interactive quality well suited to the informal activities that take place on a regular basis on the Civic Center’s outdoor plaza— including by families with children. In fact, he recommended a placement that would encourage the public’s interaction with this sculpture, including children’s play.


On Monday, May 1, the City Council chose not to respect the work done by the AAC or to follow the policy in place but to react to a political agenda of an email and a few “red dots.” Therefore, for most Del Mar residents there is no possibility to learn about or be part of a public comment process on the proposed selections. There will be no art.



Dwight Worden resigned as a Council liaison to the Arts Advisory Committee the morning after the Council vote refusing to authorize a public comment process for the AAC’s recommended artworks for the Civic Center.