Arts Commission picks 'Eternal Legacy' to honor officers

Recommendation will go to the City Council for approval. Artwork will honor 2 killed on duty.

April 17, 2014|By Bryce Alderton
  • “Eternal Legacy,” by Gerard Stripling and Michele Taylor, which the Laguna Beach Arts Commission recommended as the piece to commemorate Laguna Beach police officers Jon Coutchie and Gordon French, who both died in the line of duty.
“Eternal Legacy,” by Gerard Stripling and Michele Taylor,… (City of Laguna Beach )

The Laguna Beach Arts Commission has recommended a piece by two local artists who have a track record of creating public art to commemorate two police officers who died in the line of duty.

Commissioners voted Monday to recommend a work by Gerard Stripling and Michele Taylor, titled "Eternal Legacy," to the City Council, which will make the final decision.

Though the vote Monday was unanimous, Commission Chairwoman Pat Kollenda said the decision was difficult.

"They were all terrific, with lots of thought and a great amount of heart," Kollenda said about the other artistic entries.

Taylor, 44, who has lived and worked in Laguna for 14 years, specializes in glass, metal and ceramics. She created the "Laguna Tortoise" sculpture at Bluebird Park.

Stripling, 49, moved to Laguna 14 years ago and focuses primarily on sculpture. He created the benches called "Repose" at Treasure Island Park.


A subcommittee of commissioners and the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn. recommended Taylor and Stripling's sculpture, which represents an eternal flame within an unfurling flag, to the commission after the four finalists presented their projects, city Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl wrote in an email.

The other finalists were Jorg Dubin, Marsh Scott and Terry Thornsley.

The City Council will consider the recommendation at its May 6 meeting.

The bronze, cast glass and resin sculpture would stand 7 feet and feature an illuminated flame.

Cast in illuminated glass, words such as "honor," "courage," "duty" and "remember," would be embedded within the bronze. The design would also include inspirational quotations such as "You will never reach your dreams without honoring others" and "Heroes are the people who do whatever has to be done regardless of the consequences."

Three internally illuminated benches, each with a glass insert with the officers' badge numbers and call signs, would surround the sculpture.

The memorial is intended to honor Laguna Beach officers Gordon French and Jon Coutchie.

French died in 1953 after being shot by a prisoner attempting to escape from the police station, according to the city's website.

Coutchie was killed in September when a truck making a left turn from South Coast Highway onto Cleo Street struck the officer, who was riding his department-issued motorcycle.

Stripling and Taylor say their piece is meant to be a living testament of the officers and their sacrifice, according to a statement.

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