Petaluma’s River Arch rises, local artist David Best’s latest public art project

After five years of work, countless meetings, thousands of hours of design and construction — plus a few delays due to the pandemic — Petaluma artist David Best has unveiled his newest sculpture, River Arch.

The 25-foot steel sculpture was welcomed Saturday by more than 100 public art fans in a crowded ceremony on Petaluma’s Lynch Creek Trail, a wild and small scrap of land that meets Lakeville Highway.

Measuring slightly taller than an adult giraffe – or George Washington’s nose on Mount Rushmore – and covered in a soft blanket of deep rust red-brown, a somewhat fanciful fusion of clean curves, sharp points and swirling metal curlics, River Archly rises anew. A cement foundation buried along the Petaluma River. The structure there will stand as a dramatic entryway to either downtown Petaluma or the main stretch of the Lynch Creek Trail, depending on which pedestrians and bicyclists are passing underneath.

River Arch is a commission of the Petaluma Public Art Committee, which is charged with siphoning money into Petaluma’s public art fund — raised through a city ordinance that requires developers to contribute 1% of the cost of new downtown development. The committee selected Best to create a public artwork somewhere in Petaluma on a budget of $75,000.

Saturday’s event, which concluded with a ribbon-cutting and cheering crowd under the arch, did not signal the completion of the project. It still awaits the landscaping component, overseen by Sandra Reid of Petaluma, as well as the installation of lights, details that are set to be completed at an unspecified time in the future.

The ceremony was attended by members of the Public Art Committee, including Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett, several metalworkers from Van Baber Brothers Steel Fabrication who worked on the construction of Arch and Best, world famous for its massive temple structures, especially those built and set on fire in past Burning Man events. are

Melissa Abercrombie, Chair of the Public Art Committee, opened the event by telling the story of how River Arch came to be.

In June 2017, the Petaluma Public Art Committee commissioned Best to design an outdoor sculpture. A subcommittee was formed to explore potential sites that would meet the ordinance’s requirements to be publicly owned and publicly accessible. According to Abercrombie, more than a dozen locations were explored, one by one, and the last one on the list was selected.

“You can see why David fell in love with this site,” Abercrombie said. “The location is wide open and a bit wild. It’s an industrial space with the river below and the sky above – and a lot of breathing room for a piece of this scale.

At the time of the River Arch Commission, according to Abercrombie, Best told the committee that he already had several large projects in the works, including the conversion of the Smithsonian Institution’s reception hall in Washington, DC, and the construction of a monument. A shrine to the victims of the Parkland High School shooting in Florida. It will take one year to complete these projects.

In a 2018 presentation to the Petaluma City Council, Best outlined his preliminary sketches for the River Arch, but approval of the project did not find its way onto the City Council agenda until September 2018. After the agreement was signed, in January 2019, two community meetings were held at the site.

“Then the hard work began,” Abercrombie said, “refining the design, working with the architect as a structural engineer, working as a landscape designer, studying the soil, calculating the concrete for the footings, pulling permits and lining up the steel needed to build. Ark. Unfortunately, all of this was coming to an end in March of 2020. COVID struck, and it shut down the world.”

It wasn’t until the fall of 2021 that Best was able to work at River Arch, where the Van Baber family generously offered space and support.

“At River Arch, David Best and his creative community have given us a transformative gift,” concluded Abercrombie. “Where the past few years have forced us to stand back and celebrate less, this piece invites you to move past it with renewed optimism for the future.”

Best gave a few brief words of thanks to the people of Petaluma and the Public Art Committee before cutting an appropriately ornate yellow ribbon emblazoned with the words “River Arch” before suggesting how future public art projects could happen in Petaluma. Conducted.

“What’s unique about Petaluma is there are so many artists here,” he said. “And Petaluma High School has the most incredible art and metal art. I want to suggest to the Arts Council that if they’re going to grant another artist, I say they should have Petaluma High School students work with them as an apprentice.”

“If you’re doing an art project in this city, I strongly suggest that some of the young artists in this community have the opportunity to participate and learn from it.”

Best was equally generous in his praise of the Van Baber family.

“When I came up with this piece, I had a requirement that it represent our community,” he said. “I didn’t want it to happen Work with someone in our community. Well, it turns out that I worked with 35 people at Van Baber, a company that is a big part of Petaluma’s history. Yes, I physically built some of this piece, but the people of our community built this arch.”

After happily basking in a round of applause, Best concluded, “It was a labor of love. It’s about family. Van Baber is a family. Petaluma is a family. It was an honor.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.