Hungry for Public Art

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.

You and the Panther having a quiet moment

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!

From the mighty master of all he surveys….
To the boy who never grew up.

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.

Grandma Judy

About Bridges

Dear Liza,

I was doing some remembering about bridges the other day, after my lovely walk across the Tilikum Crossing and Hawthorne Bridges here in Portland. I hunted through my photos and found the most beautiful bridges from our travels.

Big cities tend to be built on rivers, so they need bridges. The Thames is crossed by 35 bridges inside London’s city limits. It is such an old city, the first bridge was built 2000 years ago!

Millennium Pedestrian Bridge, London, built in 2000

When William Shakespeare was born in Stratford on Avon, the lovely Clopton bridge was already 80 years old. It was built when King Henry VII was in charge, in 1487. And we got to row a boat under it!

Clopton Bridge across the Avon, Stratford-on-Avon

The city of Cambridge, England, was founded in 1120, and is literally where the River Cam has a bridge over it. I didn’t see that old bridge, but this beauty was built much later, as part of the University. It is called the Bridge of Sighs and was built in 1831. Queen Victoria said it was the prettiest part of the city.

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge

Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, is built on the River Amstel and lots of canals. It has about 2,500 bridges!! Most of them don’t have names, just numbers used to keep track for repair work. I took this picture at sunset one evening in 2008. It still makes me smile.

Anonymous Bridge in Amsterdam…

Paris’s Pont Neuf (which means New Bridge) was actually built in 1578, and is now the OLDEST bridge in the city. It was a completely new type of bridge, because it didn’t have buildings on it, and gave long views up and down the River Seine. It became a popular meeting place for people of all ages and classes, and helped turn Paris into the interesting city it is.

Paris’s 450 year old “New Bridge”

Well, that’s all for today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about our own bridges here in Portland .


Grandma Judy