The San Benito County Arts Council, along with local artists, community members and representatives from California Department of Transportation, recently selected three artists through a statewide call-for-artists to create and install new public artworks for two Clean California Projects in San Benito County.
The first public art project, the Washington St. Underpass Mural Project, was awarded to the artist team Yanoe x Zoueh, comprised of artists Ryan Sarfati and Eric Skotnes.
Yanoe x Zoueh are an interdisciplinary collaborative team from Los Angeles experienced in painting and navigating between graffiti, traditional portraiture, representational imagery, sculptural and vivacious abstraction. They have created site specific installations and murals throughout the world and currently have the world record for largest Augmented Reality mural with 15,000 square feet of painted space transformed into a 360-degree ethereal world, located in Tulsa, Okla.
Yanoe x Zoueh were chosen out of 48 artist submissions for their proposal, “The Fabric of Life,” which incorporates a large-scale painted mural, representing local stories and histories, along the walls of the underpass, as well as three-dimensional site-specific sculptural elements, which will be fabricated by project partners, UAP Company.
They visited San Juan Bautista in August to have one-on-one conversations with community leaders and representatives to gather stories, impressions and background on the community of San Juan Bautista. These stories, gathered over a three-day visit, will inform the specific imagery that will be reflected in the mural, which will be painted and unveiled in Spring 2023 as part of a broader highway beautification effort.
“We feel honored to have been chosen to create a compelling piece of art for the city of San Juan Bautista,” Sarfati said. “With this being the first Clean California project, our goal is to set the bar high. We are excited to play a role in creating a final artwork the entire community of San Juan Bautista can be proud of. The inspiration of the artwork will derive directly from the city’s rich history, and meeting with locals to better understand the city will be an invaluable resource when telling the story of its residents.”
The second public art project, the Highway 25 Sculpture Project, which will be installed at the intersection of Meridian Street and Highway 25 in Hollister, was awarded to artist James Peterson of Art Contraptions based in Southern California. Peterson was selected through a competitive process that received more than 33 artist submissions.
Peterson’s work merges sculpture, engineering, mechanics, geometry, modularity and a love of materials in order to spark interactivity between the object and the viewer. Most recently he has been exploring the field of sustainability and energy efficiency, creating works that give maximum benefit from the least input of energy resources.
During the panel review process, Peterson presented three different concepts, all of which incorporated the favored themes and ideas that emerged from a community public art survey of more than 200 Hollister residents who expressed the wish to see local assets, such as the Pinnacles National Park, diverse cultures, as well as native plants and wildlife, reflected in the artwork.
Peterson, working with project partners Ruckus Roots, will be doing additional community outreach and engagement in September to gather input on the final sculpture project, which will be installed in Spring 2023.
The Clean California Program, launched by Gov. Gavin Newsom as part of the California Comeback Plan, has invested $1.1 billion for state and local governments to clean up trash and debris statewide, and beautify community gateways and public areas along highways, streets and roads. Unique to this legislation is the incorporation of artists in the statewide beautification effort.
“This is such a unique opportunity for our community,” said Jennifer Laine, who serves as executive director of the San Benito County Arts Council, the local organization that was contracted by Caltrans to provide public art management and coordinate the artist selection process. “We’ve never had this type of public art funding in San Benito County and it will really help put us on the map with our growing public art collection.”
Laine is also a board member with Californians for the Arts, a statewide arts advocacy organization, and acknowledged the importance of state arts funding for historically under-resourced communities such as San Benito County.
“The steadfast advocacy efforts by artists and art supporters throughout California have been heard in Sacramento,” she said. “We need greater public funding for the arts to help uplift our sector which has been devastated by the pandemic, as well as to do the things that art and culture do so uniquely well, such as improve quality of life, create equitable and livable communities and increase the health and well-being of all residents.”
For information about the Clean California Program, visit cleancalifornia.dot.ca.gov.