Beach Civic Center has a fresh coat of paint and the addition of
wall murals saved during demolition of Seacliff Shopping Center,
located across the street. The glazed tile murals of birds are
only one of two such collections in existence and has an
estimated value of over $1 million. The other is located on the
island of Maui in Hawaii. The historic murals and sculptured
pelicans were artfully restored so that tourists, travelers and
local residents can see them during daylight hours.
In 1976, an
exceptional shopping center project opened in coastal Huntington
Beach, California. The Seacliff Village, designed by the
renowned architectural firm of Edward Carson Beall & Associates,
with leadership from Mayor Donald Shipley, used as an
environmental design them the types of habitats of California
140 species of birds were depicted in 16 large, hand-painted
ceramic tile murals, 79 graceful metal pelican sculptures
mounted on pier pilings, and many museum-quality natural history
dioramas, habitat maps and other decorative elements woven
throughout the outdoor mall. Artists, architects, museum
curators and scientists collaborated on this privately funded
special project. For over twenty years, it created an aesthetic,
artistic and educational experience unlike any other art in
public places site in the area.
Shea Properties, owner of Seacliff Village, announced plans to
re-develop the 25 year-old community shopping center into a new
$45 million retail center to serve the residents of Huntington
Beach. Shea Properties and the city's "Save the Birds" Committee
jointly agreed that the old center, valued at more than $1
million, deserved a new home that would provide maximum exposure
to the public. With that in mind, Shea Properties offered to
donate the artwork to the community through the City of
Huntington Beach. Shea Properties then worked closely with the
City Council to develop a preservation program and fund raising
campaign designed to save the birds and murals.
Then Mayor Shirley Dettloff and the City
Council requested the Committee to study recommendations for a
rescue effort to remove, preserved and relocated the artwork to
sites which were accessible to the public.
Professionals from ConservArt Associates
specializing in the preservation of fine art and art consultant
Ann Thorne coordinated the project. The committee studied
various proposed locations for the murals, metal birds and
dioramas and recommended that the bulk of the collection be
developed as part of a public art element for the Huntington
Beach Civic Center. A portion of the collection, the 18 natural
history dioramas, was offered to community partner organizations
including the Bolsa Chica Conservancy. Students from a senior
English class at Huntington Beach High School organized a class
project to raise money for the cost of re-installing one of the
murals at their school.
The fundraising campaign was launched by the
City and the "Save the Birds" Committee in January 1998. Mayor
Dettloff, Mayor Pro Tem Peter Green and Councilman Tom Harman
invited business and community leaders to a special reception to
announce the project and the fundraising goal of $255,000. The
lead gift to the campaign was $210,000 form the Seacliff
developer Shea Properties. The remaining $50,000 was raised
through community donations. In-kind contributions included the
work of the Huntington Beach Junior Chamber of Commerce in
refinishing the pelicans. Over 500 residents made contributions
to the campaign.
By August of 1998, the "Save the Birds"
community campaign had raised $225, 000, with the impending sale
of the pelicans estimated to bring in an additional $30,000.
With the urgency created by the upcoming demolition of the
shopping center, City staff and the consultants began work
immediately to help the birds "migrate" to the Civic Center. The
public art installation at the Civic Center includes gatherings
of pelican sculptures in flight patterns near the main entrance,
pools and other specified sites, and the mounting of ceramic
tile murals on the the previously unadorned walls of the modern
Civic Center buildings. The collection was removed from the
vacant Seacliff shopping center during December 1998 and
re-installed between January and the end of March 1999.
The arrival of the birds at the Civic Center
generated a tremendous amount of excitement in the community.
Mayor Peter Green commented that the former Seacliff birds make
the Civic Center a work of art. There was also wide media
coverage, including these supportive remarks from the Huntington
Beach Independent: "Huntington Beach City Hall has a terrific
new look. The brilliantly colored tile murals and pelicans on
posts...grace our City Hall...What an improvement!"
Thanks to the concerted efforts of the
Huntington Beach community and its partners, the Seacliff public
art collection was rescued, restored and relocated for enjoyment
of generations to come.
The Public Art Program is administered through
the Cultural, Historic and Event Services Division, Community
Services Department, City of Huntington Beach. Contact: (714)
taken on a new appearance with different placements and lighting
exposures. Smiles on visitors' faces testify to the joy these
art pieces provide. You will find the bird murals at the
Huntington Beach Civic Center which includes City Hall and the
Police Station, plus City Council Chambers. It is located on
the corner of Main Street and Yorktown. The landmark City Hall
building is the tallest building around. You can't miss it.
The art work
and lively plaza with a cascading fountain, which terraces
downward in the direction of Yorktown Avenue, create a
Wander for a
few minutes or sit on a bench near the miniature, cement pagoda
which memorializes the city's sister city in Japan. Watch people
walk past as you experience the newest treasures to a city
growing ever finer in environmental art.