Welcome to Ventura's Public Art Program


It’sTime for Ventura’s Bus Home

A double page spread image of Ventura’s signature public artwork -- “Dennis Oppenheim’s loopy Bus Home, a sculptural roller coaster” -- gets pride of place in the November 11, 2013, issue of Time Magazine in critic Richard Lacayo’s review of the hefty new coffee table book by world-renowned arts publisher Phaidon Press called Art & Place: Site-Specific Art of the Americas: “Artist Dennis Oppenheim gave shoppers at the Pacific View Mall in Ventura, Calif., a vibrant, whimsical place to wait for a ride with his 2002 structure Bus Home.” View the Time Magazine spread (pdf). Time subscribers can access the entire article online at: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2156250,00.html.


Public Art Program

Ventura's Public Art Program was enacted in 1991 and since then has incorporated an artist's vision to capital improvement projects providing visitors and residents alike with a new understanding of urban design in Ventura. Recognizing the substantial economic and social benefits gained through an aesthetic treatment of public spaces and consequent increased retail activity, the City established an ordinance allocating 2% of eligible City capital improvement project costs for the commissioning of artist design services and artwork integrated in the construction of public works. Policy oversight of the program is the responsibility of the Public Art Commission, a seven person volunteer advisory body.

Goals of the Ventura Public Art Program:

  • Promote and support the work of local and national innovative and accomplished artists
  • Respond to and reflect the diverse nature of Ventura's population, history and growth
  • Cultivate audiences for public art
  • Consider ways in which public art can play a role in achieving other community building goals and objectives
  • Approach the entire city as a showcase for public art
  • Foster sponsorship and stewardship of public art
  • Leverage CIP program resources with other sources of support

The Public Value of the Arts:

Makes a Positive Economic Impact

  • The economic impact of the arts in Ventura is estimated to be over $18.5 million annually, with almost one-half of that amount derived from the expenditures of the over 422,000 residents and visitors who attend local non-profit arts events. Source: 2004 Economic Impact of the Arts in Ventura Report
  • A recent study by the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau reveals that cultural tourists on average spend $80.55 per person per day, significantly higher than the average visitor who spends $62.13 per day. The study also revealed that cultural tourists stay a day longer than the average visitors. Source: VVCB Economic Impact of Tourism in Ventura in FY 05-06 Study
  • "The nonprofit arts sector of the tourism industry approaches $1 billion. One out of every four dollars spent on tourism is spent on a cultural event." Source: California Arts Council - Impact of the Arts Report, 2004 Update

Fosters Civic Engagement

  • "All the capacities of public art for creating the conditions of civic dialogue also make it a potential force for launching and enriching sustained democratic discussion." Source: "Art for Democracy's Sake" by Martha McCoy
  • People who take their children to arts programs or arrange lessons for them, perform or create art as amateurs, or donate time or money to the arts are more likely to belong to community organizations than those who are involved in arts and culture only as audience members. Source: Arts Participation: Steps to Stronger Community and Cultural Life" by Walker, Fleming and Sherwood, August 2003

Increases Academic Achievement and Public Safety

  • Participation in the arts has been shown to deter delinquent behavior and social problems while also increasing overall academic performance. Source: YouthARTS Development Project, 1996, US Department of Justice
  • A three-year study of arts-based delinquency prevention programs in three sites ? Atlanta, Georgia; Portland, Oregon; and San Antonio, Texas ? showed that at at-risk youths? participation in programs improved their attitudes, behavior and academic performance; decreased delinquent behavior; and increased communications skills.
  • In Ventura, with funds granted through the Cultural Funding program, "Straight Up Improv" was developed; it is a teen arts project designed to prevent underage binge drinking.

Fuels Innovation, Real Estate and Business

In February 2007, Business Week cited Ventura amongst the top 10 areas most ideal for artists. Two articles in the February 2007 Business Week issue, "America's Best Places for Artists" and "Bohemian Today, High Rent Tomorrow," cite that creative types are essential to urban and regional economic growth. The articles state that artists can fuel local economies in a number of ways by stimulating innovation, improving business product design, assisting with marketing, and helping local business attract employees as they create cultural attractions. Source: AFTA Arts & Economic Prosperity III Report & Business Week

 City of Ventura Municipal Art Acquisition Program

In May of 1999, the Municipal Art Acquisition program was established by City Council to document the history of visual art in Ventura by featuring and highlighting important works of art created by area artists. The collection provides increased access to artwork of high artistic merit and aesthetic quality through its display in the public areas of City Hall and other municipal buildings.
The Municipal Art Acquisition Committee, a subcommittee of the Public Art Commission, oversees the purchase of master works in a variety of artistic media. The Public Art Commission plans to expand the collection in future years through annual purchase of major artworks created by leading area artists.

To ensure the overall quality of the collection, City Council established the following art acquisition policies:

  • Artworks must be created by artists residing in Ventura County and/or by artists who have made a direct contribution to the history of art in Ventura County.
  • Acquisitions should be directed toward artworks of the highest quality and of distinctive artistic merit.
  • Acquisition of artworks creates a commitment to the ongoing preservation, protection, maintenance, and display of the artworks for the public benefit.

Visit The Art Collection

The Municipal Art Collection is currently on display on the second floor at Ventura City Hall, 501 Poli St., Ventura. City Hall is open from 8am to 5pm Monday through Thursday and alternating Fridays.

If you are heading north on the 101:
Take the California Street exit, turn right off the exit onto California Street. California Street intersects Poli Street, and City Hall sits at that intersection. There are two free parking lots in front of City Hall.

If you are heading south on the 101:
Take the Main Street exit and turn left on California Street. California Street intersects Poli Street, and City Hall sits at that intersection. There are two free parking lots in front of City Hall.

Since its inception in 1999, the Municipal Art Collection has grown to more than 90 distinctive pieces of art, representing the best historical and contemporary works by area artists. The original vision was to make the collection accessible to the community by displaying the artwork in the public areas of City Hall and other municipal buildings.

We are pleased and excited that this is the third year we are able to curate an exhibit beyond the walls of City Hall. Photographs by Horace Bristol, Donna Granata, John C. Lewis, John Nichols, and Stephen Schafer were selected and are now on loan for one year to the E. P. Foster Library in downtown Ventura where they will be enjoyed by thousands of library visitors.

Contact Information
City of Ventura Public Art Program
501 Poli Street, Room 226
Ventura, CA 93002-0099
(805) 658-4793

Functional Public Art Enhancements

Public Art Projects

The designed public art improvements to the Ventura Community Park include: Butterfly Cluster, Sunshades, and Trellis Lighting.



Sunshades feature four sun and weather shelters approximately 19’ in diameter. Each shelter will be a different color; selected colors are blue, red, yellow, and green.

Butterfly Cluster


Trellis Lights


Trellis Lights consist of an integrated lighting system to be placed at the top of four capitals that support a trellis sited near a main entrance to the park. A sculptural lighting element, Trellis Lights will enhance the public’s sense of arrival into this major community center.

Anita Margrill
Butterfly Cluster, Trellis Lights, Sunshades, 2005
Painted steel, fiber optic lighting

Location: Ventura Community Park
About the Art:
Ventura’s distinctive environmental connection to the unique habitat and migration of the Monarch Butterfly inspired Anita Margrill to create Butterfly Cluster and Sunshades. Butterfly Cluster is a sculptural lighting element consisting of LED lit butterflies mounted on 6’ to 8’ poles that subtly oscillate in the wind. Together this kinetic cluster of painted steel butterflies and 19’ diameter sun shelters form the “Butterfly Oasis,” which can be found in the Park’s aquatic center. The artist’s butterfly motif was inspired by the unusual migration habits of the monarch butterfly, which travels an astonishing 2,000 miles each fall to return to the coastal eucalyptus groves of Central California, including the Harmon Barranca bordering the park. The artwork honors Ventura’s connection to this remarkable habitat. Also found in the park is Margrill’s third decorative element, Trellis Lights, which features a striking architecturally integrated lighting system. Positioned at the top of the four capitals that support the trellis structure near the entrance of the park, Trellis Lights greatly enhance the gateway to one of Ventura’s most important community recreation sites.

About the Artist:
Award-winning California artist Anita Margrill has developed public art projects for over twenty-five years often with a focus on cultural, technological, and environmental issues. She attempts to create imaginative pieces that harness natural energy, mirroring what she calls “the choreography of change, celebrating the resources of sunlight, wind and water.” Among extensive public works projects by this licensed architect are an interpretive walkway (Pacifica, CA), a wind pavilion (Steilacoom, WA), kinetic and water sculptures (Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, and Antioch CA), as well as playgrounds in New York City. A designer of passive solar houses, she also holds numerous patents and copyrights for water distribution systems.
Born in New York City, Anita Margrill attended Cranbrook Academy of Art and holds a bachelor of art from Bennington Collage, a bachelor of architecture from CUNY School of Architecture and Environmental Studies, and a master of art in interdisciplinary arts from San Francisco State University. The recipient of numerous national grants, she is also a frequent teacher and artist-in-residence. Her artwork has been included in many group and solo exhibitions in California and New York.

Overview: Community Park Project

The Public Art Commission approved the artist selection panel’s choice of Anita Margrill to develop public art enhancements as part of the capital improvements identified for the Ventura Community Park in June 2001. The panel was comprised of Public Art Commissioner Scott Boydstun, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Ed Wehan, and City of Culver City Public Art Management Analyst Vida Brown. The criteria used by the panel include: the artist’s professional qualifications; proven ability to undertake projects of a similar scope; artistic merit as evidenced by the submitted materials; and demonstrated ability to work with government agencies, engineers, design professionals, and the community in the creation of an art project.

Anita Margrill subsequently received a $20,000 design contract to collaborate with the Ventura Community Park design team and developed three public art elements, Butterfly Cluster, Sunshades, and Trellis Lighting, to be integrated into the park site. In June 2002, the Public Art Commission approved Anita Margrill’s final design of the three art works. During the construction phase, she will serve as the artistic coordinator, overseeing the fabrication and installation of the art elements.

Award-winning California artist Anita Margrill has created public art projects for over 25 years. Ms. Margrill’s past projects have focused on cultural, technological and environmental issues and have been design collaborations with architects, landscape architects, engineers, educators, other artists, and the public. She has served on the design team for numerous projects including the new Dallas Police Headquarters, San Francisco’s MUNI Third Street Light Rail, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail stations, and Exploration Place, a discovery museum in Wichita, KA. Ms. Margrill attended Cranbrook Academy of Art, received her bachelor of art from Bennington Collage, her bachelor of architecture from CUNY School of Architecture and Environmental Studies, and her master of art in Interdisciplinary Arts from San Francisco State University. A licensed architect, she has designed and built numerous private and public projects and holds copyrights and patents.

The Community Park public art project has been presented at numerous public meetings and as part of the Community Park community outreach efforts. Anita Margrill presented her work at a public meeting for input in April 2002. Additionally, the project has been presented at meetings of the Public Art Commission meetings and Parks and Recreation Commission.

Public Art Opportunity Temporary Installations

The City of Ventura's Public Art Program is offering a unique opportunity for local, regional and national artists to temporarily install their works in public spaces throughout the City. Temporary installations may be created with unusual media or installed in unexpected places. They may pique public awareness of an important or timely issue; or simply add momentary beauty to a site.

In response to several requests to provide outdoor exhibition space for area artists the City has developed a temporary art installation program and application process. Developed similarly to New York City's Art in the Parks Program the Cultural Affairs Division is collaborating with the Parks Division to develop a climate for emerging artists to exhibit their work to a broad and diverse audience.

Temporary installations are defined by an exhibition period of less than one year. Prime locations for sculptural installations include the picturesque beachfront promenade and many local city parks. Upon installation the artist and artwork will be featured prominently on the City's website and announced to local and regional arts media through a Citywide press release.

All proposals will be reviewed interdepartmentally and will be subject to approval by the Cultural Affairs Division Manager in addition to the City's Risk Management and Parks Permitting Offices. In preparing the application, the artist and/or sponsoring organization is responsible for funding, installation, insurance, maintenance, timely removal of the artwork, and restoration of the site. The City reserves the right to reject any proposal if it presents a public safety risk or potential liability issues.

Artists wishing to exhibit work should download the application and checklist located above. For application assistance please contact Denise Sindelar, Public and Visual Art Supervisor at 805-658-4793.

Ventura Harbor Ecological Reserve -
Harbor Wetlands Project

Project Information:

Artist Lorna Jordan (www.lornajordan.com) has been selected by the Public Art Commission to create an arts master plan design to enhance the ecological reserve surrounding the City's water reclamation holding ponds. Leading an interdisciplinary team assembled for the project, Jordan was awarded a $100,000 contract to plan and design amenities that enhance environmental literacy, public access and the visual appearance of the site. The project is quite large and will be developed in a series of phases. The first phase is development of the master plan and a small demonstration project.

The 50-acre site is adjacent to the Water Reclamation Facility between Spinnaker Drive and the Santa Clara River estuary. Located near the commercial and recreational development of Ventura Harbor, the project is called Harbor Wetlands. Funding is from City water infrastructure construction projects percent for art monies. By state law, these funds must be used for works on the department's sites.

About the Project Team

Lorna Jordan is a nationally recognized public artist with expertise in watershed landscapes and water works facilities. Her experience with landscape-scale public art projects includes Waterworks Garden, an award-winning reclamation water site at the King County East Division Water Treatment Plant in Renton, Washington. Lorna bases her practice in Seattle.

The artist's team includes AMEC Earth and Environmental, an experienced project management firm with expertise in environmental, geotechnical, material and water resources. The artist will rely on their resources of scientists, geologists, engineers, biologists, environmental planners and specialists. Lorna selected Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. a California landscape architect firm, for their expertise in recreation planning, design, and management. A national presence, MIG has created award winning water projects across the United States.

About the Site and Art Planning Process:

The Ventura Water Reclamation ponds were created in 1971 to hold clean wastewater before release into the Santa Clara River Estuary. Shaped by bulldozers, the area is an ecological reserve with volunteer native and non-native vegetation providing habitat for resident and migratory birds, fish, frogs and bobcats. School groups, birding enthusiasts and walkers can visit the ecological reserve and enjoy fresh ocean breezes along 1.1 miles of flat, wide trails. Access is by registration in the administration offices at 1400 Spinnaker Drive. Dogs, bicycles and motorized vehicles are prohibited in the Reserve.


For the first stage the Team analyzed the existing setting, vegetation, geological and hydrologic conditions, and built environment and created a Wetlands Research Report. After community engagement and her team's extensive research, the Team then submitted the Harbor Wetlands master plan, with design concepts including a circulation plan sculptural places and special plantings. The artist is currently developing vision drawings for potential enhancements that may include a dune overlook, bird blind and seating pavilion, entry gates, and/or interpretive signage. The Public Art Commission will review the drawings in the coming year and work with Lorna to decide on a demonstration project.

Active Public Art Projects

Montalvo Park - Movement and KIDS PLAY

Project Information:
Pasadena based sculptor Louis Longi has been selected by the Public Art Commission to create two new public art works for the new Montalvo Park at Promontory Point. Longi was selected for his proposal of two bronze sculptures entitled, Movement and KIDS PLAY. Longi was awarded a $20,000 contract to design, fabricate and install the two sculptures. The Montalvo Park is being built through a collaboration of city and developer resources. Through the use of Quimby Fees, developers' assessments are being used for the new park's construction and the incorporation of public art therein.

About the Artist:
The thirty-eight year old bronze sculptor grew up in the culture of Las Vegas where he formulated his personal experiences with art at an early age. He received many awards for his art while in high school and went on to study sculpture at UNLV, where he received the Devos Art Scholarship based on artistic merit. Longi is represented by numerous galleries in the United States, and has received sponsorship from Cirque de Soleil's Artist Outreach Program. After leaving Las Vegas, Longi moved to Denver, Colorado where he lived for eleven years. While apprenticing in the production of bronze sculptures, he established himself as a successful artist while developing his own style and reputation. All of his bronze sculptures are one-of-a-kind originals, with no series or editions. From Denver Longi moved to Laguna Beach to further his career in the Southern California region. His most recent commissions are for public art works for the City of Laguna Beach, a bronze sculpted bench, and for the City of Brea, two eight foot bronze figures.

About the design:
Movement is a 10' high bronze sculpture of a female figure in motion to be sited near Victoria Avenue at the west entrance to the park. His second sculpture, KIDS PLAY will be sited within the park near the main recreation area. As part of the creation of KIDS PLAY, a 4' bronze figure, Longi has worked with students from Montalvo Elementary School to develop small sculptures that will be placed on the outstretched arms of the childlike figure. All of Longi's bronze sculptures are one-of-a-kind originals with no series or editions.


Peppertree Garden/Booster Pump Station
A Conservation Landscape

Location: Poli Street and Aliso Canyon Road (Midtown Ventura)
Artists: Kathryn Miller and Andreas Hessing
Medium: Landscape artwork

About Preppertree Garden

Peppertree Garden is a functioning booster pump station of the City of Ventura's Water Division. The pump station functions to pressurize and 'boost' water into the adjacent hillside residences. Water Department infrastructure lies beneath the entire site. Additional information can be found at Ventura's Water Department site.

Pepper Tree Corner

About the Artists

Kathryn Miller is Professor of Art at Pitzer College (Claremont, CA). She earned an MFA from U.C. Santa Barbara, an MA in Biology from Sonoma State University and a BS in Biology from George Washington University. Miller is an established public artist known for her remediation of landscapes. Millerís artwork explores environmental processes and natural systems. She currently maintains a studio in Isla Vista, California.

Team member Andreas Hessing is an artist and landscape designer. He earned an MFA in Sculpture from Claremont Graduate School and an MA and BA in Fine Arts from California State University at Fullerton. Hessing's site-specific commissions featured across Southern California encourage dialogue about the human role in regional ecosystems. His work focuses on returning land to its original state by using plants indigenous the region.

Together this team has created several innovative land art projects including the Arroyo Pescadero Interpretive Center in Whittier Hills. Built on the Puente Hills Landfill, the team worked with a diverse group of community and government stakeholders to develop an interactive and educational landscape art site. Completed in 2006, the project was funded through the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service.

About the Artwork

In 2007, environmental artists Kathryn Miller and Andreas Hessing were commissioned by the City of Ventura to create public artwork in Peppertree Garden. Interested in the history of hydrology, botany, and geology of the area, the artists redesigned the park to create an abstracted "map" of coastal California.

This coastal "map" can be explored through a series of interventions on the site that include:

    Sedimentary rock exposed in the central berm of Peppertree Garden serve as a reminder of the geology of the area. Artists will plant striking examples of local native plants that thrive in exposed areas and are drought tolerant.
    For more than 10,000 years, locals found sustenance and shelter under Oak trees. Adjacent plantings are examples of native plants that grow well in the shade of the Oak. Gabions reference an ancient technique of filling baskets with stone. Here they are designed to provide seating. They were filled with rocks found on the site.


             Pepper Tree
living room 1


             Pepper Tree
living room 2


Summer 2007. An in-progress glimpse of the living room at Peppertree Garden. Plantings will take place on November 10, 2007 at the Community Planting Day.

3. BIOSWALE This intervention is a reminder of the movement of water through Pepper Tree Garden. To begin cleanup of runoff water, a small stone-lined trench is filled with wetland plants to passively start this process. The bioswale feeds into a bowl made of eight gabion wedges filled with local limestone. This helps to de-acidify water and neutralize heavy metals. Small fossil fish can be found in the limestone that was once formed on the ocean floor but now is quarried into the mountain ranges above the park.

Pepper Tree


Summer, 2007. Artists Kathryn Miller and Andreas Hessing talk to Public Art and Conservation Interns about the function of the bioswale.

Project Timeline: (as of October 2007)

June 2007 Public Art Commission approved final design proposal. Designs evolved through input from the community and city water department staff through workshops and Midtown Community Council meetings.
July - August 2007 Artists began implementation of their designs on site.
September - October 2007 Native plants are cultivated off site in anticipation of a community planting day.
November 10, 2007 Community Planting Day
All are invite to Pepper Tree Garden to learn more about this environmental artwork, meet the artists, and to plant local native flora. Children and welcome to participate.
Spring 2008 Official dedication ceremony.


Active Public Art Projects

Tortilla Flats

MB Hanrahan
Moses Mora

Project Information:

Tortilla Flats Mural Detail

In 2003 the City of Ventura, through a direct commission, awarded the artist team of Moses Mora and M.B. Hanrahan a $36,000 contract to design, fabricate, and install a mural as part of the Figueroa Street Improvement Project. The selection of this artist team was based on their earlier, extremely successful, temporary Tortilla Flats mural, which was created in 1995 across from the Ventura County Fairgrounds and then dismantled five years later due to deterioration. Consisting of images derived from old photographs, oral histories, and extensive interviews, this new, permanent, mural is a re-interpretation of the previous work, synthesizing some of the original images with new. With this mural the artists seek to honor the neighborhood by capturing the stories and memories of the families that lived in Tortilla Flats, the neighborhood that was demolished in the 1940's to make room for the 101 Freeway. In addition to promoting Ventura's cultural history, the new mural, as well as the other Figueroa Street improvements will greatly enhance an important link between downtown Ventura and the Beach.

About the Artists:

Award winning artist MB (Mary Beth) Hanrahan earned an MFA in sculpture from Humbolt State University. In addition to creating numerous murals throughout southern California, she has experience with a wide variety of media, including photography, graphic arts, and set design. Always dedicated to creating a dialogue about social issues, MB is often an advocate for community ideas through her works of public art.

Born in the same Tortilla Flat's neighborhood he is attempting to honor, much of Moses Mora's artwork fits within the larger frame of activist and cultural worker. He has had tremendous community influence not only through his murals, which can be found in Santa Paula, Oxnard, and Ventura, but also through his work organizing performances events that benefit cultural, environmental, or human need groups. On a more spiritual side, Mora, who is a fully recognized Lakota Sundancer, further contributes to the community by conducting Sweat Lodge ceremonies for troubled youth as well as for other groups.

About the Design:

The Tortilla Flats mural is being created in four installments with each section measuring approx. 17' high and 50' long. In addition to painted scenes, the artists are also transferring the images of old photographs onto tiles and then framing them with colorful ceramics. Although inspired by the memories and lives of the residents of Tortilla Flats, the stories depicted in the mural are universal and reflect common experiences of many working class people.

This project, which is being completely designed and created at the Bell Arts Studio, will be installed at its permanent location at the freeway underpass on Figueroa Street in Ventura.

Tortilla Flats Mural Detail


The Orange Trace

1997 - 2004

Sculpture by Jeff Sanders
Photographs by Matt Sanders

City of Ventura Public Art Program

The Public Art Program, established in 1991, sets aside 2% of CIP costs for the commissioning of artists and artist services to create innovative public art projects. These art works provide visitors and residents alike with a new understanding of the unique history and diversity of cultural resources in Ventura.

The Ventura River Trail

Opened in 1999, the Ventura River Trail is a pedestrian and bicycle path that follows the old Southern Pacific "right of way" from Main Street to Foster Park, 6.3 miles inland. The path links the Ojai Valley and Coastal Omer Rains Trail to create a longer 17-mile bike path recognized as one of the finest in Southern California.

Click here for a Ventura River Trail Brochure

Environmentally, the trail is unique in that it traverses several ecological zones and skirts the edge of habitats important to many resident and migratory birds. Through funding by the City of Ventura Public Art Program, the natural landscape has been further enhanced through the commissioning and installation of artwork that seeks to interpret Ventura's economic, cultural and environmental history. One of these works is The Orange Trace.

The Orange Trace

A Brief History

In 1995, after the plans for the Ventura River Trail were completed, the city of Ventura Public Art Program, through a competitive process, selected artist Judd Fine to design a public art plan for the new 6.3-mile trail. Fine's proposal was to create a series of 32 concrete markers topped by artifacts once used in the local oil fields and place them along the entire trail as distance markers. Fine also thought that the project would be further enhanced by including the work of other local artists in the project. In April of 1997, Fine called together a meeting of interested area artists and asked them each to submit proposals keyed to locations along the trail's corridor.

One of these artists, sculptor Jeff Sanders, was intrigued by the possibilities. He was interested in how the use of this bike path could potentially create a series of unfolding images that would emerge as the rider rode along. His idea was to place several groups of cast bronze oranges at various places along the trail. The oranges would be crafted as realistically as possible and be arranged so as to appear to have fallen from the train that historically transferred produce from Ojai to Ventura. The artwork was to be titled The Orange Trace. As a sculptor the idea had several qualities that appealed to Sanders. First, it was such a natural fit for the location that it could potentially be completely overlooked by the uninvolved bicyclist. Even if noticed, the bronze oranges could pass for real. Also, by situating his artwork in several locations along the trail, the bike rider would encounter it repeatedly, each time with a subtly different environmental setting.

orange trace close-upThe Orange Trace, as a concept, was approved for inclusion in the Ventura River Trail Project. Enthusiastic about the project, Sanders began to develop his ideas. He planned to create more than 100 painted cast bronze oranges and install them along the Ventura River Trail in the area of Crooked Palm Road. He also designed a complex assembly for keeping the separate oranges securely anchored to the ground.

During the following year, while the River Trail was under construction, Sanders worked to fabricate the bronze oranges and prepare them for installation, which was scheduled to coincide with the completion of the trail. Eventually, the construction of the trail was far enough along for Sanders to explore sections of the path on his bike. Immediately he was concerned. The area he initially preferred for the site of his sculpture was problematic due to the changes with the trail's grading and the potential drainage problems. He decided that he was going to have to find a new location, one that was more level with the path. Eventually, he chose a new site that stretched from Stanley Ave. to a place just below the OST Trucks and Cranes Yard where several groupings of bronze oranges could be placed.

When the trail was finished, Sanders prepared to Install The Orange Trace, which required that indentations in the surface of the ground be filled with about four inches of concrete in which a re-bar matrix was placed. After a few days, the painted bronze oranges were screwed onto their anchors and secured with special setscrews. Topsoil was then raked around the oranges so that the sculpture site resembled the natural terrain bordering the rest of the trail.

When the installation was complete, Sanders was satisfied with the result. However, there was one aspect that concerned him. The rough, informal characteristics of the ground around the installation seemed perhaps a little too informal and rough. Suddenly, after so much effort, the idea that the artwork could be overlooked seemed a disappointing possibility.

However, after the trail opened to bike riders, it became clear that Judd Fine's overall concept for the trail had worked after all. The artwork provided "discoveries" along the route, and over the next two years, Sanders heard many stories about the various encounters people had had with The Orange Trace. Then, one day, employees of a metal recycling business in the Ventura Avenue area became suspicious when some homeless men brought in a shopping cart containing 38 bronze oranges that had been, apparently, removed from the sculpture with a large pipe wrench. This was not the men's first visit to the recycling center. In the past they'd acquired 50 cents per orange based on weight. This time, however, the City of Ventura Public Art Department was notified and the oranges were recovered. When Sanders inspected the oranges, he could see that the pipe wrench had damaged the finish but that the castings were still intact. Nevertheless, back at The Orange Trace site he discovered that all the remaining oranges were damaged, bent over, or buried. Later, Sanders learned that during construction work on a nearby development a tractor driver, who didn't notice the oranges, inadvertently drove over the sculpture.

Ultimately, after months of negotiations with the insurance company and the disappearance of many remaining oranges, the artist was finally poised to begin the restoration process. Rebuilding The Orange Trace was a course of action that involved removing all the original concrete footings, recasting about 60 oranges, re-fabricating all the orange groups with the new design, and developing a new anchoring system. Also, it was clear to Sanders that a more centralized location nearer an area frequented by people at all times of the day might inhibit the vandalism.

In 2004 The Orange Trace was reinstalled to an area adjacent to Sycamore Village between two walkways leading to the bicycle path. The area, 5 yards wide and 36 yards long, is a little more formal with a unifying fine gravel ground cover that further defines The Orange Trace as a work of art.

Fabricating The Orange Trace out of Bronze

Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, has been around for more than 5,000 years, and in all that time the process has changed very little. The making of a cast bronze work is a complex and time consuming process, requiring specific technical expertise. Each separate piece of cast bronze must pass through the entire process, so the artwork, The Orange Trace, comprised of one hundred separate pieces, demanded that the bulk of this complex process be completed one hundred times.

Creating a cast bronze shape from a natural or sculptural form begins with a mold. For The Orange Trace, Sanders created three different molds using actual fruit: two Valencia oranges and one navel orange. Each mold consists of an interior lining of flexible silicone rubber and an outer plaster case that supports the silicone interior. A mold can be incredibly detailed, and so great care was taken to capture the subtle surface nuances of the oranges.

Even though the oranges will eventually be cast in bronze, they must first be cast in wax. For this particular project Sanders used a red pattern wax to create a wax "positive" from the "negative" mold, paying close attention to temperature, which is key to the success of the original wax cast. If the wax is used at too high a temperature, it will leave a very thin layer on the interior of the mold, and if it's too cold it won't flow over the mold's surface and the details will be lost.

Each project differs in how the wax works inside the mold. Because the orange is a fairly simple shape (spherical), producing a wax cast required two pours of wax. First, a ladle of wax at 140 degrees F is poured into the mold through an opening at one end (in this case at the base of the orange). After the wax is poured, the hole at the end of the mold is plugged and the mold is rolled and tumbled in all directions, allowing the wax to reach every part of the mold's interior surface. After the excess wax is poured out and the mold allowed to stand and cool, a second pour of wax is made and again the mold is rolled and the excess wax poured out. After the last pour, it takes about 30 minutes for the wax to cool enough for the outer plaster mold to be removed and the flexible silicone lining peeled away. After the wax oranges were cast. Sanders created groupings, attaching the separate oranges with bars of wax and fitting them with a funnel shaped cup at the top to provide a place where the molten bronze can later be poured.

orange trace remnantAt this point the artist employed the services of a foundry to finish the artwork's metamorphosis into bronze. Here a secondary mold was created in the foundry's "dip room" by repeatedly dipping the wax shape into a thin liquid ceramic slurry that hardens as it dries. The resulting ceramic shell will ultimately contain the molten bronze, but at this point the unfired shell contains the wax oranges and wax bars that hold them together. Using a process called "lost wax," the wax is removed by placing each shell upside down into an autoclave. In this device water is heated into high temperature steam, which melts all the wax, leaving only the ceramic shell remnant. The interior surface of this shell retains all the surface detail that was present on the surface of the wax model.

Once the wax is melted out, the remaining ceramic shells serve as a mold for the heated metal. For this part of the process temperature is an important issue. If the molten metal is confronted with cold it stops flowing, so it is important that the metal be poured into molds that have been heated. For The Orange Trace the ceramic shells were placed in a kiln and heated to over 2,000 degrees then removed from the kiln and placed with the funnel shape opening up in a container of sand. The metal, which has been heated in a crucible, is then lifted and tilted, causing the molten bronze to pour into the funnel opening, filling the entire shell.

After several hours of cooling the brittle ceramic shell can be cracked away from the now hard bronze. The bars of bronze are cut off and the oranges separated from the group. At this point each piece is a hollow sphere with a bronze collar at its base. The bronze collar is cut off as close to flush as possible, leaving an opening of about 1 1/4" in diameter at the base of the orange. A large opening such as this was required because the shell needed to fully dry inside and outside during the shell dipping process.

To fill this opening and provide a solid mounting point, Sanders machined several plugs that would, on one end, fit the hole in the orange's base and, on the other end, make a transition to fit the æ" stainless steel pipe that is part of the anchoring system. Sanders then designed a multi-cavity silicone mold so that several wax plugs could be made at one time. The plugs were dipped, melted, heated, and poured in bronze.

For the original installation the artist drilled and threaded each plug and mounted it on a ?" stainless steel bolt with a locking setscrew. But in order to protect the artwork Sanders knew that the anchoring system for the new installation was going to have to be redesigned. To that end, he decided to weld the pieces together. Using a tungsten inert gas process, he welded together each plug and pipe assembly, and then welded this assembly to each bronze orange. After the welding process, each assembly was lightly sanded and treated to glass bead blasting to produce a clean and smooth surface for painting.

The artist's next challenge was to give the oranges their "authentic" look through painting. For Sander's, developing the original concept and then eventually painting it were the most artistic aspects of the project. However, after the concept stage, more than 1,000 individual operations had to be performed by the artist and the foundry before there was anything in bronze to paint.

Sanders' painting process began by building temporary wooden stands that were designed to hold each of the oranges. From here he applied an epoxy primer to the bronze oranges formulated to help the following coats of paint adhere. The oranges were then sprayed from all possible angles with a bright yellow acrylic urethane. This yellow color was used as a first coat to make the final orange color of the artwork appear more intense. For the following coat the artist used an orange acrylic urethane and after that a red/orange toner. This red/orange toner, which is applied in short light bursts from a very small spray gun, produces a "sun burn" effect or high lights on the surface of the orange.

After the painting process was complete, the artist's next challenge was to install the oranges so that they appeared to have a random and unplanned appearance. To achieve this look the artist dropped two dozen real oranges on a grid and photographed the results from atop a ladder. The photographs were reviewed and ten different unique groupings were chosen. The background grid from the photographs made it easy to replicate the groupings by creating a full size paper grid pattern for each layout. The oranges were then assembled into the planned groupings and from there attached to the rebar matrix.

orange trace completeTo install the sculpture on site, Sanders began by digging out a 4" deep recess into which he poured concrete. Once the groups of oranges and their anchoring assemblies were placed securely in the concrete, the entire area was covered with a layer of fine gravel mixed with dry cement. This mixture produces a stabilizing effect and provides a uniform surface around the oranges.

With this process, The Orange Trace is not only secured to the ground but also to a larger collection of artwork that contributes to this trailside public art gallery in remarkable ways. This sculpture, as well as the work of the other five artists, transforms the bike-riding activity by engaging the rider in a more interactive and reflective experience, and by providing the Ventura River Trail with its unique identity.



Share your love for Ventura’s art and history.

The City of Ventura Public Art Program is looking for volunteer art docents to share their enthusiasm for Ventura’s fascinating Municipal Art Collection with our residents and visitors to City Hall.

Become a City Hall art docent

Docents lead fun and fulfilling tours for groups of students and adults pointing out interesting details in historic City Hall’s architecture and the over 90 works by prominent Ventura County artists in the collection established in 1999.

We provide the training!

You need not be an expert - we cover many topics of interest:

  • Architecture of City Hall
  • History of the Public Art Program
  • Works in the Municipal Art Collection


Docents must be at least eighteen years of age and college students, parents, retirees, seniors, career changers or working men and women available for 2 hour shifts scheduled on alternating Fridays between 1 and 5 pm.

Learn more about the Public and Municipal Art Collections at www.cityofventura.net/publicart.

Call the Volunteer Ventura Coordinator at 805-652-4555 for City Hall art docent training and opportunities.

 City Hall Art Docents