City Beat

Sacramento call for local arena art extends to San Francisco Bay Area

Councilman Steve Hansen holds up a piece of local art he purchased next to the smaller Jeff Koons piece he bought at the Crocker Art Museum during council discussion of the proposed purchase of the Jeff Koons art piece in March at the Sacramento City Council meeting.
Councilman Steve Hansen holds up a piece of local art he purchased next to the smaller Jeff Koons piece he bought at the Crocker Art Museum during council discussion of the proposed purchase of the Jeff Koons art piece in March at the Sacramento City Council meeting. jvillegas@sacbee.com

When the Sacramento City Council approved the purchase of an $8 million sculpture by artist Jeff Koons for the downtown arena site earlier this year, many in the local arts community complained they weren’t given a fair shot at the unprecedented piece of funding.

In an effort to support area artists, philanthropist Marcy Friedman donated $1 million to commission what was described as local art for the arena – the largest single donation for local public art in the city’s history. Another $300,000 in contributions split evenly between the Kings and the city of Sacramento to the Art in Public Places program was added, quieting some of the criticism from local artists.

But a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) released this week shows that artists from 17 counties – including San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin and Sonoma – will have a shot at the arena project. The inclusion of Bay Area counties in the application process is a provision of Friedman’s contract that was approved by the City Council, said Shelly Willis, head of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.

“I’m surprised to find out that ‘local’ includes 17 counties,” said Merle Axelrad, a well-known local artist who was critical of the Koons piece.

Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the central city, had requested that the local art funding be limited to the six-county region that includes Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Yolo, Yuba and Sutter.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I had hoped it would be local. But if our local artists put in applications and give us quality projects, I hope we can still keep it local in the final decision.”

City arts officials said Sacramento-area artists will be given a fair shot during the selection process. Willis said she intends to design a scoring system that will give preference to artists living in the city of Sacramento. And she said the arts commission has done extensive outreach – and plans to do more – with local arts groups, artists and colleges.

“To me, this is a regional call (for artists),” she said. “That’s where we’re focusing our outreach.”

Applications for the art installations will be accepted until July 6. The finalists will be selected later that month by a nine-member panel, and the winners will be announced in early October, Willis said.

Contracts with artists that exceed $100,000 will require City Council approval.

Art is being sought for four locations at the arena complex.

The art panel will choose one artist to create a graphic installation on the LED screens that will appear on the outside of the arena, near the facility’s main entrance. That art will likely share the screens with advertisements, but will be displayed during predetermined times. About $50,000 will be spent to commission that work.

Another artist will be chosen for space along L Street, between Fifth and Seventh streets, on the arena’s southern edge. Between $250,000 and $400,000 will be spent on that artwork, which could include installations on the arena facade, the sidewalks along L Street and streetscape furniture.

At least one artist is expected to receive between $250,000 and $400,000 for art in a planned public plaza outside the arena and at an entrance to the plaza at Fifth and J streets.

Finally, between $250,000 and $400,000 is available for art to be displayed on three massive escalator wells inside the arena. Those wells are visible from outside the building and “are primary sites for suspended works of art,” according to the RFQ.

Arena art selection timeline

  • Applications from artists are due July 6
  • Finalists to be selected in July
  • Winners to be announced in October
  • Artwork fabrication and installation between October 2015 and October 2016
  • Artists from the following counties can apply: Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Sutter, Yolo, Amador, Calaveras, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Solano, Butte, Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma.
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