SOLANA BEACH — About 50 people gathered at Fletcher Cove Park on Jan. 27 for the dedication ceremony for a seagull sculpture that ruffled a few feathers after being donated to the city’s permanent art collection.
“This is a perfect place for this bird to land,” Councilman Joe Kellejian said.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” asked resident Mary Jane Boyd. “It changes the entire area of this park. Wherever you stand, you see it differently. It just fits.”
“This is an example of art inspired by nature,” said Alli Dixon, a member of the Public Arts Advisory Commission, which worked to find a location for the 400-pound piece. “It was a long process and we learned a lot. We listened to what the community had to say and tailored it to fit in with nature and not obstruct any views. The result is just beautiful. It’s a nice complement to the area.”
But as Allen Moffson, chairman of the arts commission, pointed out, the comments “weren’t always kind words.”
The sculpture, created around 1940, was crafted from molded sheet metal with a dark patina finish to mimic a bird in flight.
At its widest, the gull has a 6-foot wingspan, with 3 feet between its beak and the tip of its tail feathers. Donors Carol Childs and Peter House bought the piece on the East Coast.
After moving to Solana Beach, they shipped it west and donated it to the city. Council members accepted the gift in 2008 and directed the arts commission to find an appropriate location.
After an extensive public review period, about 70 comments were received. Slightly more than half opposed either the gull, the proposed locations or both.
“The sculpture itself suggests the heavy hand of an unperceptive amateur and the newly proposed substructure wrestles, visually, with the majestic pines behind it,” one resident wrote, while another called it a “nicer looking vulture.”
Some of the positive comments described the piece as “classy” and “magnificent.”
Council members were also split at the time and directed staff to create a full-scale, on-site mock-up to accurately illustrate its visual impact.
Childs said she wasn’t offended by the negative input.
“It cannot be taken personally,” she said. “No two people like the same music, books or food, so if people have different visions of art, it’s just not surprising.”
Childs said the base, created by Solana Beach resident Dennis Higgins, is designed to mimic the waves and pick up the “flows, curves and shapes” of the surrounding Torrey pines. Childs and House fully funded the base and installation so there was no cost to the city.
“This was a hassle, but public art is like that,” Moffson said. “It wasn’t easy but all in all, it was fun — when it was over.”