Public art should not have to be protected from the public, says a San Clemente parks panel. Thus, a plan to install nine hand-painted murals of beach, ocean and city scenes along Avenida del Mar should not include city funds to shield the art from vandalism or damage, the panel is recommending.
The Parks and Recreation Commission had approved the San Clemente Historical Society's proposal for the murals, each 18 by 3 feet and composed of individual tiles painted by city residents. However, the panel recommended that "protective measures not be installed ... to determine if the public affords the murals the respect they deserve."
The idea behind the unusual move is to trust the public, rather than spend money to thwart vandalism that might never happen.
"You don't automatically assume the public is going to destroy public art just because you put it up," said Bruce Wegner, director of the city's Beaches, Parks and Recreation Department. The commission, he said, "would prefer to give the public the chance to prove them right, rather than assume that the public will destroy public art."
At its meeting last week, the City Council voted to send the proposal to the Planning Commission for further review.
The Historical Society is sponsoring the fund-raising project, relying on donations and volunteers to keep costs low.
Blythe Welton, co-president of the society, said the murals would depict palm trees, dolphins and other "scenes indicative of a coastal town." The Historical Society is still choosing the artists. Because the murals would be placed along the city's main street and on a long, low wall between the community center and library, concerns have been raised that the art would be vulnerable to damage from people sitting on the wall or on top of benches and banging their heels on them.
Guarding against that type damage would most likely require bricks or stones along the top of the wall to discourage sitting, said Wegner.
Murals installed earlier at the pier, also on low walls that flank the entrance to the beach beneath the railroad tracks, have not been vandalized or damaged, Wegner said.
For the pier murals, the society charged the public $60 each to paint an 8-inch-square tile. The tiles became part of two large murals that depicted "San Clemente Morn" and "San Clemente Sunset." Each tile was sketched in by an artist, and the public was instructed on how to fill in the lines and what colors to use.
The 88 tiles for each of the murals were sold in one day, raising more than $10,000, Welton said. "There were so many people who were not able to get in the first phase," said Welton. "This is another opportunity for people to paint tiles together with their friends and family and then see the lasting results."
"San Clemente Morn," by Mary McMenamin, in Parque del Mar at the foot of the pier, is a scene from the bluffs above the pier, looking out at red-tile roofs, bougainvillea and sailboats on a calm, blue sea. Rick Delanty's "San Clemente Sunset" is a warm scene at beach level looking toward Dana Point.
The results have been praised by the Historical Society, participants and the artists.
"I was amazed at how serious people were," McMenamin said. "I also teach art classes, so I take this seriously. I told them that if this if going to be done and in a public place for the world to see for years to come, it's got to be done right."