Sculpture Fair Aims to Redefine Public Art in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is defined by technology.

If Menlo Park Public Art (MPPA)—a new Peninsula-based nonprofit—reaches its goal, the region will also be known for the transformative effects of public art.

To jumpstart the process of reaching that lofty vision, MPPA is putting on the inaugural Silicon Valley Sculpture Fine Art Fair from Sept. 25 to 27 at Menlo College.

“Being this is our first event, it’s a big deal,” MPPA project manager Maria Cerrone told to San Jose Inside in a recent phone interview. “This is part of the overall initiative, to get the arts to also define Silicon Valley, not just technology, so when people come to visit they don’t just want to see Facebook or Google headquarters. There can be another side to Silicon Valley, and quite frankly a lot of people appreciate the arts and maybe their voices are not being heard as much.”

To that end, MPPA CEO Katharina Powers spearheaded the efforts to put on an Art Fair as a great way to start community-wide interest, Cerrone said.

The MPPA has a goal to purchase public art outdoor pieces to put in surrounding parks and new real estate developments as a way of beautifying outdoor space.

Cerrone points to the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University as a destination site where people gather and gaze at larger-than-life bronze sculptures.

“The Rodin Sculpture [Garden] is very popular with families and students who in turn bring their friends or neighbors to Stanford,” Cerrone said. “It’s a cool place to hang out, and we’re trying to replicate that in a sense of the community outdoor experience, which Stanford has been doing a great job at for years.”

The SVS Fine Art Fair is showcasing 30 sculptures by local, national and international artists, including from Burning Man.

San Jose resident Ryan Carrington will have one of his works, American Gothic, showcased at the Art Fair. Carrington teaches sculpture at Santa Clara University and coupled with his artwork, has been able to make a living doing what he loves.

Carrington is an interdisciplinary artist, meaning he works from a variety of mediums, including fabric, cast metal, plywood, bricks and carpenter chalk lines.

“My work addresses the shift in public perspective towards the culturally defined roles of blue and white-collar workers in the United States,” he stated in the artist spotlight section on menloparkpublicart.org. “My intent is to provide a conduit for empathy between our stratified society by inspiring dialogue across communities of people that represent the corners of our culture, history and socioeconomic status.”

In Carrington’s American Gothic sculpture, a pair of cast aluminum, steel-toe work boots hang over an electrical wire, and the pieces are integrated into the actual environment.

American Gothic hinges around the American Dream, questioning the dynamics of that term for the blue-collar worker.

“I always like to make things that will create and inspire conversations,” Carrington said. “Where I get the most excited is if I can inspire people to think about [the sculpture] where it becomes a conduit to their ideas.”

Art aficionados are in for a treat as exhibits from a “who’s who” of artists will be on display, including ones from Foon Sham, Riis Burwell, Oleg Lobykin, David Middlebrook and Peter Richards, among others. Middlebrook and Richards are actually two of Carrington’s past mentors, as Carrington worked with them around the same time he was earning his Masters of Arts degree at San Jose State University.

Carrington has an extensive collection of works that has earned recognition by investigating issues of class and wealth distribution. He’s been in constant communication with Powers and can’t wait to see all the exhibits on display.

“I look at the artists [whose work is on display], and it’s a pretty impressive list,” he said. “I’m honored to be a part of the show.”

The show hasn’t gone on for many industries since the coronavirus pandemic hit in mid-March. For a while, organizers of the the SVS Fine Art Fair didn’t know if they could pull off the event since so many variables were out of their control. However, things started to fall into place once Menlo College President Steven Weiner gave his stamp of approval.

“He was in strong support of moving forward, so when we heard that and also got feedback from informal surveys from board members, family, friends, colleagues and community groups who said they felt safe enough to attend something outdoors, we started to move forward,” Cerrone said. “To have support from donors and people buying tickets was something we needed to see and was very encouraging.”

It’s a powerful reminder that as statues in the U.S. and in other parts of the world are being destroyed or removed because of their racist overtones, MPPA looks to erect large-scale sculptures that are exquisitely defined, abstract and free of political connotations.

“Anyone can interpret these sculptures in a very personal way,” Cerrone said. “The pieces are so beautiful in an abstract way.”

The theme of the inaugural SVS Fine Art Fair is “Past, Present, Progressive,” and the sculptures will represent all three ideas as visitors walk the Menlo College campus. After months of lockdown, Carrington said the fair is just what the doctor ordered.

“It’s really cool to have this outdoor opportunity to enjoy artwork, take it in and feel something,” he said. “So many of us have been stuck and haven’t been able to go to museums, and while online tours are available, there is something different about going to see art in person. There is an emotional connection to the work and I’m really excited to be able to provide that to someone.”

SCHEDULE

September 25, Friday

9am to 5pm Private Viewing, Menlo College Campus

5 to 6pm Opening Night: Improvisational dance by San Jose based New Ballet Co, inspired by sculptures

​6pm Invitation Only Reception with Menlo College President Steven Weiner, Presidents House, Atherton Vice Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, Menlo Park Mayor Cecilia Taylor,  MPPA CEO Dr. Katharina Powers and sculptors Yoko Kubrick, Adam Wiedmann, Albert Dicruttalo and Oleg Lobykin

September 26, Saturday

9am to 6pm Art Fair open for visitors, Menlo College Campus
2-3pm Panel 1: “Statues of Limitations - Public Art: Past + Future”
Florence Moore Hall, Menlo College Campus.

Guest Speakers:

  • David Middlebrook sculptors at SVS
  • MPPA CEO Dr Katharina Powers

6pm Panel 2: “How Outdoor Sculptures can Enrich Public, Private & Commercial Settings”

The Park James Hotel, 1400 El Camino Real, Menlo Park

​Panelists:

  • Elsa Cameron + Michael Lerner of Community Arts Inc.
  • Steven Weiner, Pres Menlo College
  • Archie Held, sculptor at SVS
  • Keith Willing, Landscape Architect
  • Ryan Carrington, sculptor at SVS

​6pm Artist reception at The Park James Hotel

8pm Film screening

“Art on Fire”
A Burning Man film
2020 Documentary 1:30 min
Menlo Park Council Member Catherine Carlton will Interview producer Flash right after the screening.
Location: Park James Hotel
Ticket $20 at the door
Reserve your ticket: [email protected]

September 27, Sunday

9am to 2pm Art Fair open for visitors, Menlo College Campus
2pm Silent and Live Auction, Menlo College Campus (30% of sales) proceeds will support Menlo Park Public Art Program

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