Foundation Gives Berkeley Grant to Build Natural Sculpture

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The city of Berkeley will be given a $100,000 grant from a regional foundation to spend on a local art endeavor this summer.

The grant was awarded to the city on Nov. 18 by the Open Circle Foundation, an organization committed to supporting art that incorporates the East Bay's natural environment, said Diane Sanchez, director of grant making and donor services for the foundation.

The foundation will work with the Berkeley Civic Arts Program and a local artist of their choice to plan and oversee a natural sculpture in the Berkeley Marina, Sanchez said.

Mary Ann Merker, civic arts coordinator for the program, said the foundation, which does not possess any land of its own, was interested in creating a large environmental art installation and approached the city as a collaborator.

"This is unusual because the foundation doesn't usually give money to government agencies," Merker said. "We are very pleased with the grant and it couldn't have come at a better time."

Merker said the civic art budget has taken a significant hit from the economic downturn, and expects to receive as little as $20,000 next year.

Because the project site-a former landfill area of Cesar Chavez Park in the Marina-is a sensitive wildlife habitat, the artist will be limited to natural materials such as stone, soil and some seasonal grasses, Sanchez said.

Sanchez added that the foundation and the city would be working with the regional branch of the National Audubon Society, an environmental preservation organization, to ensure that the installation meets environmental standards.

Artists must submit project proposals for the site by April 30. The project is expected to be completed by late July, according to Sanchez.

The city of Oakland was also granted $100,000 from the foundation, which it plans to put toward several urban art projects in each of the city's districts, according to Steven Huss, Oakland's cultural arts programs coordinator.

Sanchez said the grants being given to the two cities are some of the largest that the foundation has awarded in its five-year history.

"Having such a large amount of money for this sort of thing is not easy for a city these days," she said. "We were really happy to come in and be able to do this, because we think art is really important."


Contact Anna Widdowson at [email protected]

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