Two Emeryville Marina Public Art Finalists Selected to Evoke Memory of Historic Mudflat Sculptures

Published On August 23, 2018 | By Rob Arias | Arts & Culture, In the Neighborhood

Two finalists have emerged from a pool of submissions in a lengthly City of Emeryville Public Art selection process. Ned Kahn’s “Wind Jetty” and Pete Beeman’s “Emeryville Serpent” were chosen as final selections by the Emeryville Public Art Committee for two Emeryville Marina installations.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the finalists,” said Economic and Community Development Coordinator Amber Evans. “I am personally excited to see this step in realizing a project conceptualized in the Public Art Master Plan so quickly moving from a concept to artist selection,”

Among the many established criteria were to evoke the memory of our historic mudflat driftwood art. Other project goals stated in the staff report that include:

  • An Iconic image
  • Enhance public awareness of shoreline
  • Craft a landmark for visitors
  • Building civic pride
  • Create kinetic or engage-able/ climbable pieces
  • Evoke prior mudflat installations yet durable
  • Use art in functional pieces or integrate functionality into art pieces
  • Bridge natural and urban setting

Kahn, who is based in nearby Sebastopol, creates installations that are activated by the movement of wind, water or light. Kahn’s proposed polycarbonate chainmail fabric would be mounted along the breakwall near our Marina’s pier. “My intent is to transform the entire breakwater into a work of kinetic, environmental art,” Kahn states in his below proposal. Kahn’s piece will be presented to City Council for contract approval at the Sept 17th meeting.

Beeman, who earned his MS in design from Stanford, is based out of Portland as well as New York City. Much of his work plays with engineering principles that he notes are “to inspire a sense of discovery.” Beeman’s Serpent installation would have an interactive moving head and swishing tail and be climbable by the public. Final approval of Beeman’s Serpent was tabled by the Public Art Committee pending a playground safety study.

“Like the mural on the Greenway before it, these projects were conceived in the Plan and prioritized by the Public Art Committee and approved for release by the City Council in the first year of the Plan’s adoption,” added Evans. “We are supporting artists with international reputations and putting our Marina on the map for must visit locals. “

Installation would likely begin early next year with an anticipated completion by summertime. BCDC approval or the need for additional fundraising could potentially delay the start of the installations until summer. When installed, both pieces intend to be visible to passing commuters from I-80 as our legendary Emeryville mudflat art once were.

Public Art commissions are typically paid with the Art In Public Places (AiPP) fund which made up of private development contributions.


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Wind Jetty

Artist: Ned Kahn
Website: nedkahn.com
Proposal: In developing this proposal, I became intrigued with the concrete breakwater at the end of the Emeryville Pier. I landed on the idea of using this massive structure as the base for a wind-animated artwork. Blurring the lines between art and infrastructure, my intent is to transform the entire breakwater into a work of kinetic, environmental art.

For the last few years, I have been experimenting with a polycarbonate chainmail fabric that ripples in the wind like the surface of water. I few years ago, I created a 10-story, circular tower in Los Angeles wrapped with long ribbons of this material hung so that they undulate in the ocean breezes. Video of this artwork in motion can be [viewed below].This project involved an intensive review process with the City of Los Angeles Building Department where the fabric passed every test and code for durability, fire codes, UV-resistance, etc. The material is extremely strong and will last for decades with no maintenance needed. I have samples that have been in full sun for over 10 years with no fading or changes to the material. The fabric makes no noise, which was important in Los Angeles because of adjacent residences and it is harmless to birds and other animals.

For the Emeryville Breakwater, I propose to install a line of 4-foot tall chainmail curtains on to the top of the concrete structure. My intent is to create a cloud-like artwork that will respond and flow with the changing wind and light conditions of the bay. The movement of the individual rings allows the fabric to expand and develop rolling waves similar to the way the wind over water generates waves. So, in addition to being visually engaging, the motion of the artwork will have an educational aspect, awakening people to the wonder and mystery of how the wind makes waves on the ocean.

The polycarbonate chainmail is extremely lightweight and has almost no wind resistance, as it pivots out of the way of strong winds. My engineers, Endrestudios, who are based in Emeryville, have calculated the added forces on the massive breakwater structure will be negligible. I have done destructive wind tests with the polycarbonate chainmail and found that it will survive hurricane force winds with no damage. The material can even absorb the blows from airborne debris in hurricane force winds.

The chainmail is semi-transparent so it will not block views or light. The material is harmless to birds and other creatures. The curtains will be installed so they do not block views to any of the navigational signs and lights on the breakwater. The chainmail will be supported by a series of 316 stainless steel brackets spaced every 10-feet and anchored to the concrete breakwater with stainless bolts. A horizontal bar of stainless steel, mounted 5-feet above the top of the breakwater, will support the 4-foot tall curtains of chainmail so they are free to ripple in the wind. The existing breakwater has 2 sections that extend from the pier. The section closest to the pier is about a 100-feet long and the other section is about 440-feet long. My intent is to install the kinetic elements on both segments for a combined length of 540 feet. This would be one of the longest artworks in the Bay Area.

The proposed kinetic artwork will be visible from many vantage points in the area. Even from a great distance, the motion of the artwork will resemble water and will draw people to the end of the pier to investigate. From the plaza at the beginning of the pier, people will have a great view of the dynamic motion. From the end of the pier, people will have the opportunity to experience the artwork close at hand. The artwork will give people a reason to walk out to the end of the pier (good exercise, beautiful views). The captivating movement of the fabric will be very visible from the boats, docks and ramps of the adjacent marinas, the Bay Trail, and from windows of the Watergate residences and nearby tall buildings. When the sunlight and wind conditions are right, the artwork will even be visible from the Frontage Road and the Freeway as well as Point Emery and Chevys and Trader Vic’s restaurants. There is a glass enclosed viewing platform adjacent to the Watergate complex that will offer an excellent place to watch the artwork ripple in the wind.

In addition to all the potential viewing sites on land, the experience of the artwork from a moving boat will be very interesting. Vessels going in and out of the harbor will pass directly through the artwork. In addition to being mesmerizing, the amplitude and frequency of the waves in the undulating chainmail will give boaters valuable visual information about the strength and direction of the wind. The artwork will transform the concrete breakwater into a magical portal into the wind, a doorway into the mysterious workings of nature.


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The Emeryville Serpent

Artist: Pete Beeman
Website: petebeeman.com
Proposal:  Rumors of a San Francisco Bay Sea Serpent have long floated around the bay. Though rarely seen, this Serpent has a long history, first described back in the 1800s, yet captured on video as recently as 2004.

Of course, it was seen multiple times off the Emeryville mud flats in the ‘70s and ‘80s. While some have identified it as the San Francisco Bay Monster, its frequent sightings in the mudflats of Emeryville make clear its true home. It IS the Emeryville Serpent.

Beeman’s proposal gives a nod to the fabled mudflat art including this piece dubbed “The San Francisco Bay Monster” circa 1978 (Photo: California College of Art).

The broad spaces and incredible views of the Emeryville Marina beg for an artwork that rejoices in diving in and out of its fields and trees, addressing the park in several spots, but visually and conceptually connected. It must be visible from far, but not obstruct the incredible views. It must be approachable, interactive, accessible.

As soon as I found the mudflat serpent images I knew that it had to be a sea serpent doing the diving. I will build the long rumored and seldom seen Emeryville Serpent swooping and diving in and out of the soil of the Emeryville Marina park. It is visually dynamic and engaging, as well as interactive in different ways. While the Serpent is hundreds of feet long, only four parts are visible above ground: a head, two arcing sections of its snakelike body, and a tail section. These spread around the Family Meadow at the north end of the Marina peninsula, as though the Serpent is swimming across the park from West to East. Each section is made of an open and airy frame of curved and welded stainless steel pipes. These structures sketch the form of the Serpent, yet don’t obstruct the amazing views on the Marina Park. They invite climbing and exploration.

Segments of Beeman’s serpent piece would be installed on the northern end of Marina park.

The 12’ tall head has a working jaw and a flapping pair of gills/wings/ears. Turning the hand crank at the bottom of the neck allows visitors to make the mouth open and close and the gills swing back and forth. The mechanical system is composed of direct linkages and levers, so there are no gears meshing or chains driving the system. Mechanical parts will be stainless steel as well, and enclosed if necessary for safety and wear. There are no pinch points and the mechanical advantage of the crank system will not be enough to hurt the wise child who climbs up to put his hand in the Serpent’s mouth. The crank is continuous, there is no stop and start. As long as one turns the crank the motion continues, without reaching a stop. The jaw and gills themselves will have stops, for the curious who climb up and move them directly, or hang off them, so the elements can’t be overextended.

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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