One of my oldest friends in town has been doing “art glass” since before he graduated from Los Gatos High School in the early 1970s. He started out with stained glass, expanded into etched glass, then glass sculptures, neon tubes — nearly every facet of glass art. Today, he is a world class artist getting commissions from large corporations and far flung governments all around the globe. He's receiving commissions for glass work and innovative sculptures in glass, stone and metal.
Many years ago, this friend introduced me to numerous other art glass guys concentrated in our neighborhood of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I have to believe the reason for this concentration is because they can have large studios, a necessity in their medium, that are fairly cheap to rent. They are spaces such as barns or old mills and other such large, enclosed spaces that are cheap when compared to shop space in the urban/sub-urban world.
Most of these people WANT to be in the mountains and not in the hub-bub of the commercial world down below. Plus, being within easy reach of each other, they have a “fall-back position” when they need assistance.
Sculptors are usually lone wolves when they work. However, in that they often deal with massive but delicate materials, they often require help, be it to move something or use some specialized tools. It’s good to have someone close by who can appreciate and have solutions for a new, special project that the lone wolf can’t manage by himself.
Well, for whatever the reason for our concentration of glass and sculpture artists, the concentration does exist here, right in our laps. All of these guys walk into the new Los Gatos Library and shake their heads. They have been around for more than 40 years.
While helping one of the guys mount a large project last month, he asked me if I’d seen the glass in the library. I said yes, and asked who did it, expecting to hear a familiar name.
“A chick up in Chico,” he answered.
“WHAT?” I asked.
“Yeah, just like always.”
For all of my noise the last couple of years about making newer town residents aware of us, I had to say, “I gotta look into this.”
“Forget it. It’ll never change. Screw ‘em.”
I called the town and started to track this thing out. Here are the significant portions of two emails sent to me by town officials:
“In 2009, the Town conducted a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for artwork to be incorporated in the new library. More than 20 proposals were received. A Library Public Art Selection Committee interviewed the artists who responded to the RFQ. The Committee was comprised of the Library architects, the Council Library sub-committee, the executive director of the Museum of Art, the president of the Friends of the Library, and staff. The Committee selected two artists to create their proposed art work for the library: Sheri Simons for the art wall and Benjamin Phipps for the Nurdle Nooks. The art is paid for by the funds raised by the Friends of the Library.”
I asked for more information regarding distribution of the “RFQ:”
“The architect prepared the RFQ, which was reviewed by the Town. The architect distributed/advertised the RFQ through public art channels they have used on many public library projects.”
With this information, I did a little research. Here’s how I see it now: The town of Los Gatos put out a request for proposal to architects for the new library. An architectural firm in Berkeley (Noll and Tam) was chosen. The architects put out a Request for Quote (RFQ) for the art work on the glass in the library and more than 20 proposals were received by the architect. The person to do the “art wall” work was chosen by a committee comprised of the following:
- The architects themselves
- Several council members (no artists or art experts here)
- Executive director of the Museum of Art (a bureaucrat for an art organization)
- President of The Friends of the Library (bureaucrat of a non-art organization)
- And “staff” (bureaucrats, most of whom don’t even live in Los Gatos, let alone have any claim to know much about local art talent)
In the end, this committee hired a college professor/artist from Chico, California and paid her more than $100,000 for her art glass. Upon casually querying more than a half dozen local glass/sculpture artists, not one of them was ever made aware of the RFQ, not through personal contacts or through the professional media which they monitor for such information.
All of these guys have done numerous projects for all sorts of governmental agencies during the past 40 or 50 years. These artists are from Los Gatos or its immediate environs. And much to my frustration, and their frustration as well, they are seldom made aware of such projects developed by their town during those 40 to 50 years.