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City to consider Burning Man sculpture in Fremont Park

 
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By Tyler Callister/Special to The Almanac

The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday will consider allowing an 18-foot-tall sculpture that was originally featured at the Burning Man festival to be temporarily installed in Fremont Park, in the city's downtown area.

The council will make a decision about the sculpture during its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

The proposal for the art project comes from local nonprofit Menlo Park Public Art, which says its mission is to "develop, support and maintain public art that serves the community."

Designed by East Palo Alto-based sculptor Oleg Lobykin, the nebulous abstract art piece is called "Talking Heads." It features a mirror-like surface that allows viewers to see themselves and their surroundings in distorted reflections.

The total cost for loaning the sculpture for a two-year period is about $16,500. However, Menlo Park Public Art has secured private funding for the project, and said it will be of no cost to the city.

The sculpture is meant as a pilot project of the nonprofit art group, which has announced ambitions for a series of public art installations in town. CEO Katharina Powers, who is also the owner of Art Venture Gallery at 888 Santa Cruz Ave., spoke to The Almanac in October about the idea behind the organization.

"In order to do this we have to educate people about the importance of public art, how it can ignite imagination, start a conversation and be a positive part for our community," she said. "Art expands what it is to be human."

The nonprofit has identified other potential art installation sites, including along Bayfront Expressway; on Sand Hill Road between the Rosewood Hotel and the Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club; at the west exit of Marsh Road; and at the Santa Cruz Avenue and El Camino Real intersection, near Cafe Borrone.

Powers first brought the idea of advancing a public art program in Menlo Park to the council last October. In November, the council directed city staff to work with Menlo Park Public Art and come up with a pilot program proposal.

The Parks and Recreation Commission then reviewed it in December. "After receiving public comment, the Commission was supportive of launching a public art program in Menlo Park," the city's recent staff report explains. "They appreciated the initiative by Katharina Powers and the MPPA and viewed the proposal as an opportunity to start a conversation on public art in Menlo Park."

In its December discussion, the commission expressed concern that the sculpture was a one-time project; commissioners said that they would like to see a more developed program that would continue indefinitely.

The commission ultimately decided that in the absence of a full public art plan for Menlo Park, it did not want to commit public funding, but would be open to artwork at no cost to the city. Then on Jan. 15, MPPA notified city staff that it had secured private funding for the project.

The budget for the two-year loan term includes installation at a cost of $5,500, insurance at $1,500, removal of the sculpture after two years at $5,500, additional maintenance/repair at $2,500 per year, and additional insurance at $1,500 per year.

Lobykin's art piece has a 7-by-7-foot base and weighs 2,000 pounds.

The council will take up the matter and decide the sculpture's fate at Tuesday's meeting. Notably, back in October during the council's discussion of the project, Councilwoman Catherine Carlton said that she was a fan of the sculpture and had personally climbed on it while she was at Burning Man in late August.

Also on Tuesday night's agenda are two public hearings:

● The council will consider the Planning Commission's recommendation to approve architectural control, a use permit, major subdivision and a below-market-rate housing agreement for nine single-family homes at 661-687 Partridge Ave.

● The council will consider approving a conditional development permit amendment for a 240-room hotel, and reducing the associated required number of parking spaces at 301 Constitution Drive, a property owned by Facebook.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2020 at 1:26 pm

Yuck. Spend the $16,000 on something truly beneficial to the residents of the city.

Get the cost down to $16.00 then place it on the old dump site at the end of Marsh Rd. Preferably behind or within a stand of thick bushes.


26 people like this
Posted by Kyle Vogel
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2020 at 1:32 pm

The “cost” is zero. This looks like an interesting piece that will inspire wonder and discussion among families.

Make this happen!


26 people like this
Posted by 94025
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2020 at 2:51 pm

LOVE this!! Menlo Park is so lacking in public art. We need to show our kids – and everyone – it's value. Whether individuals hate, like, or love it, it starts a great conversation!


17 people like this
Posted by Cayo
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 10, 2020 at 5:10 pm

Fascinating sculpture! How will it be anchored at the park? My concern is that children will climb on it, and it must be safe.


8 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 11, 2020 at 10:13 am

Like I said Kyle, spend the money on something beneficial to the residents. The money given could go to arts projects or classes in local/city youth programs.

How many Burning Man aficionado could there be in MP.


19 people like this
Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 11, 2020 at 1:07 pm

Please don't put this oversized, ungainly sculpture in our one and only downtown park.
Instead, please replant grass where the tanbark is, and let us enjoy a bit of nature in our downtown.


19 people like this
Posted by Please no
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 11, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Please don't put this thing in our park that is otherwise surrounded by natural beauty. This is a place people want to spend time at peacefully—not see "distorted reflections" of the world. We don't need incomprehensible "art" that makes people feel anxious and weird by design.


14 people like this
Posted by Vera
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Feb 11, 2020 at 6:53 pm

Who's gonna keep it clean and shinny?


10 people like this
Posted by Captain Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 12, 2020 at 9:07 pm

This sculpture looks like a "statement" piece, one that belongs someplace where it will be seen by many people, preferably as they enter our fine city.

There's already at least one such a location, one that is already proven to be suitable for a public-space sculpture.

May I suggest that we use the new sculpture to replace the tired old abstract 'pile of rock/concrete couches' sculpture that has haunted Willow Oaks Park along Willow Rd. at Coleman Ave.? Must that couch sculpture stay there indefinitely?


9 people like this
Posted by Brooke
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 13, 2020 at 11:58 am

If the sculpture is placed in Fremont Park, please do not place it where it conflicts with viewing/watching music in the park.


12 people like this
Posted by Pv visitor
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 14, 2020 at 7:44 am

WHY ? Such a pretty park now. Save the $$


6 people like this
Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 14, 2020 at 1:32 pm

And this 18-ft-tall Burning Man abstract sculpture would greatly distract from the beautiful and festive Christmas lights the city puts on the tall tree nearest the corner every year.
Come to think of it, it would distract from the glorious redwoods all year long.
Fremont Park is a very small park--our tiny oasis in the downtown. We need to preserve it as our little bit of nature on our downtown street.
It would also be detrimental to our summer arts and crafts fair when people want to sit on the grass in Fremont Park and dance to music.
This sculpture would an eyesore in our park.
Not the place for it at all!


4 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 17, 2020 at 9:15 am

What connection does Menlo Park have with Burning Man? I’m not aware of one. Why not put up a statue to John Fremont for whom the Park is named.


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