In a public meeting held by the San Francisco Arts Commission on Wednesday, the contest between two-headed squirrels, a metal net, a boat made of bicycles, and a handful of Victorian posts finally came to an end. The posts won.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Michael Arcega, the designer behind “Valencia Street Post,” a collection of six posts inspired by Victorian architecture and the winner of the Valencia Streetscape Public Art Project.
The Victorian-crowned posts, which will line Valencia Street between 16th and 19th streets by the end of 2009, are a nod to the Mission’s architectural history. But they were also designed with an eye toward modern culture and, to that end, will be used as bulletin boards for “flyers for punk shows, lost dog alerts and job ads, among other things,” Arcega said.
During the meeting, Arcega said that he came up with the utilitarian aspect of his design after spending time in the Mission and noticing how public spaces, such as telephone poles and building fronts, are used as canvasses for community expression.
Born in the Philippines, Arcega has been in the United States since he was ten years old and has been living in Hayes Valley for the past 13 years. He currently works out of a studio at The Headland Center for The Arts in Sausalito. The budget for his project is set at $52,000, which includes production costs and the artist’s payment.
In his proposal Arcega wrote, “the vibrancy of the Mission can literally be observed in postings, scrawls, graffiti, messages, drawings, paintings, ads, and other forms of communication.” Of the four projects, Arcega’s alone offered a physical engagement between the art and the public.
Mission District artist Brian Goggin’s design, “Faro,” a statue resembling a huge boat made of bicycle parts, was a close runner-up in the decision, but was ultimately voted down. “I just don’t think it’s aesthetically pleasing,” said one panel member. Many others agreed.
The other two designs, a floating metal net called “Cast of Sorrows” by Ana Teresa Fernandez and an unnamed collection of hybridized animal sculptures by Misako Inaoka, were also well-liked among panel members, but were ultimately turned down as well.
Fernandez’s design was perhaps the toughest to reject, as the decision seemed to be budget related. “I’d really love to see this piece work,” said panelist Kevin Chen, program director at Intersection For The Arts. “But to do it right we’d need more money.” Inaoka’s design was also praised by panel members but ultimately dismissed.
The panelists made their decision quick and did not argue, but at least one member of the audience wasn’t happy. “I jovially play and frolic in the Mission and I want to be able to enjoy great art while I’m doing that,” said Natalie Villalobos, the only person attending the meeting who was unaffiliated with the art’s commission. “I know I’m not going to play with those street posts though. I just don’t understand how they’ll be any different from the posts that are already there.”
She preferred Goggin’s design. As for concerns that Goggin’s bicycle boat was aesthetically questionable, Villalobos disagreed. “Bicycles are a huge part of this neighborhood and I don’t think that’s going to change,” she said. Other members of the community were given the chance to voice their opinions in writing at The Mission Cultural Center where the proposals were on display for the last two weeks. These opinions were considered privately by the panel but not discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.
The decision was ultimately made by the ad hoc neighborhood selection panel comprised of neighborhood representatives, arts professionals, and a project architect from the Department of Public Works.
Arcega’s design will now be passed through a final selection process during which the 13-member Arts Committee is expected to green-light its manufacturing and installation.
“There is, however, a very slight possibility that the commission will disagree with the panel and recommend that we start the process over again,” said Kate Patterson, the spokesperson for commission. “But that’s very rare.”