Mark McDermott

Five murals approved, three rejected 

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A photo mural by Bo Bridges will be installed in the Civic Center parking structure. Renderings courtesy City of Manhattan Beach 

by Mark McDermott 
The City Council on Tuesday night approved five new murals on city properties at a total cost of $73,000, while also rejecting three other proposed murals. In a separate public art matter, the council selected four artists to submit proposals for a $250,000 art project in the Civic Center lobby.
All funds come from more than $2 million in developers fees that are earmarked for public art, $734,000 which has thus far been allocated as part of a larger citywide vision that will eventually result in up to 20 murals, wraparound art on utility boxes, and a sculpture garden.
All the murals approved Tuesday night were by local artists and first selected by the city’s Cultural Arts Commission.
“We really made an effort to choose local art for this project, and all but two are from Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, or Redondo,” said Martin Betz, the city’s cultural arts manager. “Another is from Venice, so it’s all close.”
Councilperson Steve Napolitano, who was on the council 17 years ago when the city’s public arts master plan was first adopted, and has been an advocate for more aggressively implementing that plan, expressed disappointment with the fact that all the murals were on city property and largely clustered in or near downtown.
“This was not the vision I was hoping for when we went down the road of murals,” he said. “I was thinking more along the lines of Hermosa Beach.”
Betz said this initial batch of murals is intended to spur more on private property throughout the city.
“The idea was to kickstart more private murals, so this is kind of the seed of that,” he said. “So it has a bigger life than just putting murals out there.”
Two of the murals selected by the commission were by Bo Bridges, a prominent Manhattan Beach-based photographer. The city last year asked Bridges to provide mockups showing artwork throughout the Civic Center. Most of those were no longer under consideration, and one of only his two proposed murals — a wall-sized photo of a lifeguard tower with the pier as a backdrop, placed within the Civic Center parking structure — made the council’s cut. Its price tag was $8,700. His other proposed mural, another lifeguard tower intended for the ramp leading into the parking structure priced at $27,000, was rejected by council both due to cost and location. The majority didn’t think the site was visible enough to the general public to justify the price tag.
Bridges said he was unaware that the matter was even returning to council and would have liked to submit for one of the other sites, at Metlox Plaza, as well as for the larger art project in the Civic Center lobby.
“I’d love to see art all around town, and not just mine,” Bridges said. “I want to see variations. But being that we came to them with renderings over a year ago, and weren’t told what spaces were available —  except for the ones we mocked up — and to find out today that this is now up for discussion and approvals seems odd. I feel like we were left in the dark after all this time. But I will still be honored to have any of my images on a wall in Manhattan.”
The Metlox mural selected is by Kelsey Montague, the New York-based muralists whose angel wing “selfie” oriented art pieces have become something of an international craze.
“I love the Kelsey Montigue [art] in Metlox,” said Mayor Nancy Hersman. “We need to make sure to prepare for people to come and get pictures there. It can be crazy — I was in Nashville, and they have big wings there, and there were just lines of people.”
This Montigue piece will not feature angel wings, but balloons, at a cost of $16,000.
“Those are not mylar balloons,” quipped Napolitano, referring to the city’s environmentally-based ban on mylar balloons.
“It’s the last balloon in Manhattan Beach, how about that?” Hersman said.
A mural by Manhattan Beach based painter Charles Bragg will occupy the east-facing wall of the Josyln Community Center at a cost of $20,000. He’d originally planned a mural with historical surf and beach scenes. Councilperson Suzanne Hadley made a friendly amendment requesting that the mural feature only wildlife, not people.
“I’m not in love with historic stuff,” she said. “I don’t want to look like Pawnee, Indiana…No people, just animals.”
“Love it,” exclaimed Bragg from the audience.
An elevator structure on the north end of the Civic Center parking structure will feature a colorful nature scene by Joanna Garel, a Redondo Beach based muralist, at cost of $19,000. A low wall in the parking lot on 14th and Highland will feature a brightly colored abstract mural by Kid Wiseman, a San Diego based muralist who is known for projects that include youth participation, at a cost of $10,000.
The other two murals rejected included a skate scene by Hermosa-based artist Josh Barnes at the Marine Avenue Skate Park, which was deemed not visible enough for the $15,000 price tag; and a basketball-based and augmented-reality enhanced mural by famed Venice-based muralist Trek Kelly, which was likewise deemed not visible enough at the Marine Avenue racquetball courts for its $30,000 price tag.
The four artists selected to submit projects for the Civic Center lobby are all well-known in the realms of public art: Nancy Hou, from the New York-based design studio Hou De Sousa; Susan Zoccola, a Seattle-based artist; Kipp Kobayashi, an LA-based artist and urban designer; and Monika Bravo, a New York based artist originally from Colombia.
Each will receive $4,000 to come to Manhattan Beach to do research necessary to make a formal proposal. Betz said one of the qualifications is that each has already completed a large public art project commission valued at least at $150,000.
“The idea is, these are artist used to dealing with complex design issues,” he said

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