Ukiah Launches Ambitious Public Arts Project
by Stacey Sheldon
October 14, 2021--The City of Ukiah’s Community Service Department recently launched its 50 in 5 Arts Campaign. This ambitious project aims to install 50 pieces of public art throughout Ukiah in the next 5 years. The intent of the 50 in 5 campaign is to showcase Ukiah's creativity and culture through public art that reflects the unique wisdom, intellect, history and imagination of Ukiah’s people.
The project is the brainchild of Neil Davis, Ukiah’s Director of Community Services. He reached out to Alyssum Wier, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Mendocino County, for support. Together they crafted a vision and purpose for the project. Together they garnered grant money, created applications for artist proposals, and navigated through permitting and insurance bureaucracy to get projects underway and installed.
In Alex Thomas Plaza, Elizabeth Raybee’s Receptacle Mosaics uplevel the trash and recycle containers with colorful designs that celebrate Mendocino’s landscape and inform on disaster preparedness. The Pop Up Gallery under the Alex Thomas Pavillon is also a 50 and 5 installation. Local artist Annie Rugyt Bernard collaborated with Davis on the outdoor gallery. Bernard created the current exhibit of 5 mixed media pieces exploring themes of isolation and grief induced by the Pandemic. One piece, made with paint, pencil and fluorescent colors, is an illustration of a web of wires wrapped around each other like Celtic knots.
In stark contrast to the whimsical nature of the Sound Garden is the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Mural on the Arbor Building housing Redwood Services. Visiting artist Shane Grammer and the Hope Through Art Foundation recently guided local youth through the painting process of this powerful mural. With bold, blood red handprints in the background, and a larger than life portrait of Khadijah Britton in the foreground, the mural honors Britton who has been missing since 2018. This mural calls for greater awareness and justice for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s movement, and is part of a larger series of murals planned by the Ukiah Valley Youth Leadership Coalition.
In addition to these completed and installed projects, several other works of 50 and 5 are in progress: Lauren Sinnott is finishing up a masterpiece mural on Church street that presents a chronological history of Mendocino county, and Tim Poma, Lonnie Lopez, and Nathan Valensky will create a mural at Ukiah’s Skate Park.