“Art says it’s for the people,” Seeman said. “It says it’s a public structure.”
Seeman’s sculptures — the whale, a bench and a sculptural mural — were selected in early 2008 by the Arts Commission from a number of proposals for public art for the center.
The pieces bring Laguna’s Heisler Park to the site, with a flock of pelicans, ocean themes and the breaching whale, which jumps out of a spray of steel balls.
Criticisms derailed sculptures
But the pieces ran into a juggernaut of criticism when they were presented to the City Council for final approval in March. Two prominent landscape architects and others said they would detract from plantings already approved at the site. The whale, in particular, was opposed as being too large for the scale of the building and for possibly interfering with the growth of a new sycamore tree planned for a nearby spot.
In the end, the council voted to accept the works and granted Seeman a $190,000 commission to create them — but to decide later where they would be placed.
It was the largest-ever public art commission in the city — and the first time the council had rejected a public art proposal recommended by the arts commission.
Councilwomen Toni Iseman and Elizabeth Pearson were appointed to a subcommittee to come up with a home for the pieces, which could be the new center, Heisler Park, or some other place.
This doesn’t sit well with Seeman, who says the pieces work together and should stay together.
“If they go elsewhere, they will be broken up,” he said. “They are meant to be united.”
Seeman says he’s never experienced such controversy about one of his public sculptures — and he’s had 21 installed so far around the country.