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Irvine Works Toward Making Art A Big Part Of Everyday Life


Three large-scale sculptures have found homes in Irvine parks and public places in recent days and three more are on the way as part of an ambitious new program aimed at making works of art a part of daily life.

"The basic idea, I think, is quite fantastic--that the whole city becomes an art gallery," said R. Doss Mabe, vice president of CRSS, an Irvine architectural firm helping to underwrite the city-sponsored "Arts Irvine" program

Already installed are "Rubaiyat," a marble work by Norman Patrick Hines that now is housed at the interim Irvine Civic Center, and "Floating," a steel work by Gerald Walburg on display at Irvine Unified School District headquarters. Children have been seen clambering on an untitled concrete sculpture by Joyce Kohl that was installed last week at Northwood Community Park.

Still to be installed are works by sculptors Fletcher Benton, R. Bret Price and James McLaggen Mitchell. Benton's sculpture was to be moved to the UC Irvine campus by the end of May, and the others will be placed at city parks within about three weeks, city officials said.

The works are on loan from the artists for one year under a program conceived by the Art in Public Places Advisory Board, a panel appointed by the Irvine City Council. All are available for purchase, but part of the sale price would go toward continuing future exhibits.

"Arts Irvine" was adopted as the first formal project of Art Spaces Irvine, a nonprofit corporation formed last May to raise money for arts projects in the city. Mabe is a member of the Art Spaces Irvine board of directors.

CRSS has donated $10,000 to pay for installation of the six sculptures and for publicizing the program, Mabe said. The City Council voted last week to pay for property insurance on the pieces, and for liability insurance on the four sculptures located on city property.

Program plans include presentations on Sundays given by docents stationed at each sculpture, and maps will be made available so that interested viewers can drive to the site of each piece of art. Videotaped interviews with the artists that can be shown in local classrooms also are planned, Mabe said.

"Arts Irvine" organizers hope the program will continue beyond this year and eventually become self-supporting, Mabe said. If a piece is sold during the one-year loan period, 10% of the purchase price will be contributed to Arts Irvine to help support the program.

Ideally, Mabe suggested, a piece would be purchased by a local patron and donated to the city, so that it could remain at the same site. Or, in another scenario that Mabe also finds attractive, a work could be purchased by an Irvine business and moved to its office, thus keeping the sculpture in the city's environs.

Artist Walburg, who was on hand for the installation of his piece Friday, has participated in similar programs in other cities. An art instructor at Cal State Sacramento since 1968, Walburg created the 10-foot-high steel sculpture entitled "Floating" in 1981, but he said he has not displayed it publicly until now.

"This is one way of putting work out and having some exposure," Walburg said. "Hopefully, something will come of it." In 1981, he sold a piece in Brea as part of that city's extensive "Art in Public Places" program.

"Arts Irvine" is the first formal undertaking for Art Spaces Irvine, but the group now is helping plan some long-term arts projects in the city. They include proposals for an Irvine museum complex; the search for a permanent home for the Severin Wunderman Foundation collection of artist Jean Cocteau's works, which now is housed at the Irvine headquarters of Severin Montres Ltd., and the selection and siting of art for Irvine's new Civic Center, due to open next year.

The Art Spaces Irvine board of directors includes representatives from a number of local businesses, including the Irvine Co., Koll Co., Trammell-Crow Co. and the J. Ray Construction Co.

"Our basic job is to raise money to fund the programs. People come to us with projects," Mabe explained.

He added that the board has been selective in its undertakings, choosing to concentrate on a few projects. "A new group can spread itself too thin," he said.

"Arts Irvine" is the second undertaking for the Art in Public Places advisory board, formed by the council two years ago. The first was commissioning a work by Mark Lere to be installed at the Heritage Park Regional Library, which is still under construction. The commission was funded by a $53,500 donation from the Koll Co., a Newport Beach-based developer.

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