City Council approves kelp sculpture at Lantern Bay Park

City Council approved the addition of an art installation titled “Offshore Forest” by Dana Point resident Steve Rydzon to be erected this spring at Lantern Bay Park. Image courtesy of Steve Rydzon
City Council approved the addition of an art installation titled “Offshore Forest” by Dana Point resident Steve Rydzon to be erected this spring at Lantern Bay Park. Image courtesy of Steve Rydzon

By Andrea Papagianis

Looking out over Dana Point’s harbor, beauty all but smacks you across the face.

But in a good way.

And a simple dive below the horizon presents an entirely new world.

With deep hues of the color spectrum and sunlight sinking into the depths of the ocean, this splendor is often only experienced behind glass at an aquarium or by taking the plunge fit with scuba gear.

But now, a sculpture project at Lantern Bay Park will meld the mysteries of the sea with the seemingly everyday beauty of the harbor—so that later this spring, residents and visitors of Dana Point will walk among the kelp forests typically reserved for the coastal waters below.

On January 15, Dana Point City Council members voted unanimously to approve plans for the city’s latest piece of public art, titled “Offshore Forest” by Dana Point resident Steve Rydzon.

Rydzon, an urban planner and landscape architect with SWA Group in Laguna Beach, answered the city’s “Call for Artists” in early-September. His proposed art installation beat out 20 other public art submissions to fill vacant space at Lantern Bay Park—overlooking the harbor.

Urban planner and landscape designer Steve Rydzon, of Dana Point, answered the city’s “Call for Artists” in July 2012 for an art display at Lantern Bay Park. Photo courtesy of Steve Rydzon
Urban planner and landscape designer Steve Rydzon, of Dana Point, answered the city’s “Call for Artists” for an art display at Lantern Bay Park. Photo courtesy of Steve Rydzon

“I think a lot of the beauty in that park is self-evident—and hits you over the head it’s so beautiful—and to accentuate something that was already there, I thought we can all see this, So I decided to select something that most of the residents of this city and the visitors of the park may not get to visit,” Rydzon said.

Rather than creating a literal translation of what was around him, Rydzon used his spearfishing experiences, weaving through kelp, to inspire the art installation. The sculptural character and the way light plays off the thick forests of seaweed acted as the foundation for the piece.

“The most beautiful part of it (kelp) is how individual strands stack upon each other and move in coordination with one another, yet are also moving independent of one another,” Rydzon said. “It’s mesmerizing.”

This is the first piece of public art recommended by the city’s Arts & Culture Commission.

Started two years ago, the commission is a “tangible manifestation of the city’s commitment to arts and culture,” said Dana Point City Councilman Scott Schoeffel, who helped establish the commission during his term as mayor.

The idea for the Arts and Culture Commission grew in part from what Schoeffel called his view that art should be a “benchmark of government decisions” in Dana Point. Additionally, there was a need within the city for a recommending body to oversee projects through the Art in Public Places program—an initiative aimed at incorporating art into new developments.

Since 1994, the city has required all new development and remodeling projects—such as the construction of residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and recreational developments—in excess of $1 million, to contribute to the city’s cultural and aesthetic surroundings.

Participation in the Art in Public Places program is mandatory, as all new developments are required to implement a public art component into their plan, with a minimum value requirement of no less than half-a-percentage of the project’s overall construction costs. Alternatively, a contribution can be made to the public art fund for an equal amount.

This fund is designated specifically for use in public art endeavors.

And this along with private donations—given exclusively to public art efforts—has funded projects like the Mary Ellen Thomas Fountain in Plaza Park, the soon-to-be-completed Doris Walker Tribute at Heritage Park and now the kelp sculpture at Lantern Bay Park.

Dana Point municipal code defines public art as, but not limited to, “sculpture, paintings, mosaics, graphic arts, photographs, fountains, decorative arts, film and video, and the preservation of features or resources of historical, archeological or paleontological significance” that is located on or in a site accessible to the public.

According to city code, the purpose of the program is to “encourage creativity, education and an appreciation of the arts and our cultural heritage.”

Exempt from this initiative are single-family homes, multiple-family residences with less than four units, projects subject to regulation under the Dana Point Revitalization Plan and projects with less than $1 million in total cost.

Before the establishment of the Arts and Culture Commission, plans for public art went directly to the Planning Commission and City Council for review.

A view of the Dana Point Harbor from the site of the art installation titled “Offshore Forest” by Dana Point resident Steve Rydzon approved by City Council on January 15. Photo by Andrea Papagianis
A view of Doheny State Beach from Lantern Bay Park, the future site of the art installation titled “Offshore Forest” by Dana Point resident Steve Rydzon. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

But now the commission conducts the research and fact-finding in order to make the appropriate recommendations, so the “city—as part of its ordinary business—can act on those recommendations in a focused and productive way,” Schoeffel said.

Schoeffel said his hope is for the commission to do a lot of hard and behind-the-scenes work to recommend ways in which the council can set an “outstanding environment to not only attract world class music, arts and culture to this city, but also to sustain that.”

The sculpture at Lantern Bay Park will consist of six Cor-Ten steel panels—chosen by the artist for its durability and resemblance to the copper color of kelp—each of which will be laser-cut with a unique pattern mimicking an underwater kelp forest. These panels will stand approximately 5-feet tall and will be placed in a semi-circular form. According to a city staff report, the sculpture will be back-lit during the evening to create a “subtle shadow pattern.”

Rydzon said the fabrication of the sculpture will only take a few hours, but “it’s getting the details just right that will take some time” to ensure things like “structural elements and structural engineering are correct” so there are no issues in the future.

The cost for the project is a maximum of $25,000, including the artist’s and construction fees.

Expected completion of “Offshore Forest” will be sometime this spring, but no timeline is set for construction as of yet. For more information on the city’s Art in Public Places program visit www.danapoint.org.

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