Final artists selected for public art at Sacramento Kings arena, including two locals

A river of blue- and gold-colored glass spheres suspended above a concourse. Giant darts and a disassembled dartboard on a walkway near L Street. An outdoor sound sculpture hidden in a plaza garden. Out of 135 applicants, these three ideas were recently green-lit by a panel of art experts for installation at the new Kings arena.

Midtown artist Bryan Valenzuela is one of the two locals whose work will appear inside the Golden 1 Center when it’s scheduled to open later this year. “The potential to realize this thing that I’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for five months, that’s awesome, that’s wild,” he told SN&R on Monday.

Valenzuela’s project, titled “Multitudes Converge,” is a three-dimensional, $350,000 installation that will go indoors near the arena’s escalator wells at its L Street entrance. The piece will include more than 400 blown-glass spheres, suspended as high as 40-feet above the ground and stretching half-the-length of an NBA basketball court. 

“I’m really excited. I’ve never done a large-scale sculpture like this,” Valenzuela said.

The 135 artists applied for the arena public-art gigs by July 2015 deadline. A panel including Marcy Friedman, Crocker Art Museum head Lial Jones and seven other art experts narrowed that group down to 17 finalists, each of whom were given $3,000 to present ideas this past fall.

And now, after nearly a year of work, three finalists have been chosen: Valenzuela, longstanding central-city artists Gale Hart, and San Francisco’s William Fontana. City council is scheduled to approve Hart and Fontana’s contracts tonight, and Valenzuela’s should be finalized by the month’s end.

Hart, who’s been a local arts-scene leader for decades, also told SN&R that she’s never had an opportunity like this in her career. “I have not done anything this big by any stretch,” she said. “It was so wide open. I could do anything that I’ve never been able to afford to do.”

Her piece involves giant dart sculptures and a dismantled dartboard. Arena visitors will interact with the piece as they walk toward the entrance: They’ll come across a giant dart shooting in to the sky, random numbers on the walls, a dartboard on the ground, and a bull’s eye on the palm of a hand. Passersby will also see the large darts and numbers as they pass Fifth Street in L (see artist rendering, above). Hart says she will use fiberglass, steel, concrete, terrazzo marble to complete the work, and her budget is $283,000. She’ll receive a 15 percent artist fee, which is standard on public art, and her installation deadline is October.

She says the biggest challenge was coming up with an idea that complemented the arena but also stood on its own. “At first I was like ‘What the hell, I don’t even know what I can do with this?'” she admitted.

She quickly zeroed in on the deconstruction of sports and games. “The piece is about taking a game apart, and asking questions about competition,” she explained. “Why are there no numbers on the dart board? Why is the bull’s eye not there?”

SMAC’s Willis called Hart the real deal. “She’s an incredible an artist,” she said.

S.F.-based artist Fontina’s piece also will be installed outside the arena. Consisting of 34 weatherproof soundspeakers, which will be strategically hidden in planters on the arena plaza and on walls that face the planters, a city report describes the piece as an “immersive sound experience.” Fontina envisions the speakers playing sounds from Sacramento’s landscape: birds, insects, the wind passing through trees, and even noises from King’s games. Fontina is a major regional artist and his piece is being commissioned for $330,000.

The fourth location for public art will be LED boards on and inside the arena. Willis says her vision for the LED project has evolved since last year, however, and now she hopes to commission multiple artists to display their work there for the first five years of the arena’s life. She also hopes to collaborate with local schools to show student work, and also borrow art from museums and collectors. The city of Boston does a similar thing with their LED screens at its convention center. Her deadline looms: October of this year. 

Is that date hard and fast? “Oh yes,” she said, then laughed. “I mean, we’re going to try. These projects take on lives of their own. These are original works of art!”

Installation of the controversial Jeff Koons “Coloring Book No. 5” sculpture is on schedule for September.

When Valenzuela’s contract is finally approved, he’ll begin work by flying to Germany, where the legendary Franz Meyer of Munich glass-makers will hand-blow the piece’s 400 spheres. This will take at least three months; he hopes to ship them to Sacramento by the end of July. During that time, he’ll also continue collaborating with structural-engineering firms and architects.

Valenzuela says his initial inspiration for the piece was Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s ocean-wave paintings. That got him thinking about the Sacramento and American rivers, and how they are the “DNA of the city.” He says he didn’t focus on his work being inside a sports arena. “I just thought more about the region,” he said. “Something evocative of the area we live in.”

When the work is completed and installed this October, game attendees will enter the arena on L Street and look upward to see glass spheres cascading above them, like two rivers converging into one. As people make their way up the escalator to the second concourse, some of the spheres will be closer, “flowing” overhead. And, when they finally make it to the second level, the art will take on a new perspective: It will be at eye-level.

A nice reward for those in the cheap seats. “If you’re going to sit in the nose-bleeds,” Valenzuela explained. “You’ll get a whole different angle.”

Read a longer version of this story in Thursday’s SN&R.

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