When I was growing up, there was no public art in my little city of Manhattan Beach. We had the beach and the pier, which were very nice. But no art.
After moving around a bit, I landed in Salinas. There were just two public statues there. One, my favorite by far, is the larger-than-life Panther at Hartnell College. Made by Robert Puccinelli in 1930s, it has been sat on by many generations, including your Daddy David and you.
There is also a a smaller-than-life statue of John Steinbeck standing in front of the main library. He looks appropriately grumpy and thoughtful, maybe because the city removed his signature cigarette because they didn’t want Mr. Steinbeck to be ‘a bad influence’.
When Claus Oldenburg’s installation “Hat in Three Stages of Landing” was installed in 1982, it was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t installed as it was supposed to be, and it just looked silly.
So when I first visited London in 2006, my art-hungry eyes had a treat. There were (and still are) statues everywhere! Every patch of lawn, every public area, had some sort of sculpture. What a feast for the eyes!
And Paris! The Tuileries Garden is home to 21 statues, from Saints and Queens to mythical figures wrestling minotaurs. And the rest of the city is just full of them!
I understand that France and England had Kings and Queens who had statues built to show how powerful they were. They spent a lot of money, basically showing off.
Also, Paris and London are much older cities than Salinas. Salinas was only founded in 1874. By that time, Paris had been the capital for 57 kings. London had been in business for over 1,500 years.
Maybe public art grows out of a long history. We will give Salinas another thousand years or so to catch up.