One of the things that sets Benicia apart is our commitment to public art. Public art has intrinsic and social value to a community, but is often under-appreciated. Not so in our small town: Benicia has 17 pieces of public art; most of which are downtown, and that number is about to grow.
Art is ingrained into Benicia’s cultural identity, driven in large part by our robust arts programs through Arts Benicia, our numerous galleries and the many artists who live here. This quote from the associationforpublicart.org, seems particularly apropos to our town: “Public art is a reflection of how we see the world—the artist’s response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are.”
Thanks to a recent city council vote, a new piece of public art is one step closer to becoming a reality. Benicia artist Lisa Reinertson, known for her life-size figurative ceramic sculptures and large-scale public sculptures cast in bronze, was invited by the Benicia Arts and Culture Commission to give a presentation of her sculpture, Neptune’s Daughter, a six foot bronze of a woman holding a pelican. Although Reinertson’s public commissions can run close to six figures, she is donating the piece to the City.
Reinertson said that she views Neptune’s Daughter as a reminder that we need to pay attention to our waterways and keep them healthy. The piece’s theme of stewardship of local water habitats, made it important to Reinertson to work with the City as to the optimal placement. To that end, she created a PowerPoint that superimposed the sculpture onto her preferred location—the western side of the circle at the end of First Street. “I have always believed that public artwork, thoughtfully integrated into an environment, creates a sense of place that can greatly enhance a city,” said Reinertson, in her statement to the committee.
Completing her MFA at UC Davis in 1984, Reinertson has taught at various colleges and universities, including UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute. In addition to numerous exhibits, her work has been shown in museums nationally (Crocker Art Museum and the American Museum of Ceramic Art, among others) and internationally. She has completed over 20 public commissions in bronze. “In addition to Lisa Reinertson, Benicia has been home to internationally known sculptors—including Robert Arneson and Manuel Neri,” says Vice Mayor Steve Young. “Neptune's Daughter will be a sublime addition to Benicia's art scene. It is likely to become an iconic image of our town. The site at the foot of First Street connects to the maritime subject matter, and will draw additional visitors and art lovers to First Street.”
Costs for site improvements, such as foundation work and landscaping projected at approximately $20,000, are being privately funded, so there would be no need for city financing. Benicia residents David and Annette Batchelor kindly agreed to provide the necessary funding. “I am very grateful for the generous donations by Ms. Reinertson, and David and Annette Batchelor,” said Young.
From her artist bio, Reinertson’s work combines “a realism rooted in figurative art traditions, with a contemporary expression of social and psychological content.” In 1987, Reinertson began making public sculptures of Martin Luther King, Jr., and ceramic sculpture Martin Luther King, Jr., can be viewed at King Hall, UC Davis School of Law. Other local sculptures by Reinertson can be seen at Suisun Valley in Fairfield (Mother Earth), and in Vacaville and Sacramento. For a complete list of Reinertson’s many public sculpture locations, go to lisareinertson.com/artist/Reinertson_resume2011.pdf.