Fall Arts 2020

Sculpting an Identity

New group wants to make Silicon Valley public art cool

Stand Upload | Sculpting an Identity | More Than a Book Club

WORKS SITED: Michael Kesselman is one of the artists whose work will be featured at the Silicon Valley Sculpture Fine Art Fair.

Silicon Valley is defined by technology. But if the new Peninsula-based nonprofit Menlo Park Public Art (MPPA) achieves its goal, it will be known for transformative public art, as well.

To jumpstart that lofty vision, MPPA is putting on the inaugural Silicon Valley Sculpture Fine Art Fair from Sept. 25 to 27 at Menlo College.

"Being that this is our first event, it's a big deal," says MPPA project manager Maria Cerrone. "This is part of the overall initiative, to get the arts to also define Silicon Valley, not just technology, so when people come to visit they don't just want to see Facebook or Google headquarters. There can be another side to Silicon Valley—and quite frankly a lot of people appreciate the arts, and maybe their voices are not being heard as much."

MPPA CEO Katharina Powers spearheaded the effort to put on the Art Fair as a way to raise community-wide interest, Cerrone said. The group's goal is to purchase public art outdoor pieces to put in local parks and new real estate developments as a way of beautifying outdoor space.

Cerrone points to the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University as an example of a destination site where people gather to gaze at larger-than-life bronze sculptures.

"The Rodin Sculpture [Garden] is very popular with families and students, who in turn bring their friends or neighbors to Stanford," Cerrone said. "It's a cool place to hang out, and we're trying to replicate that in a sense of the community outdoor experience."

The SVS Fine Art Fair is showcasing 30 sculptures by local, national and international artists, including from Burning Man.

San Jose resident Ryan Carrington will have one of his works, American Gothic, showcased at the Art Fair. Carrington teaches sculpture at Santa Clara University and coupled with his artwork, has been able to make a living doing what he loves.

Carrington is an interdisciplinary artist, meaning he works from a variety of mediums, including fabric, cast metal, plywood, bricks and carpenter chalk lines.

"My work addresses the shift in public perspective towards the culturally defined roles of blue and white-collar workers in the United States," he stated in the artist spotlight section on menloparkpublicart.org. "My intent is to provide a conduit for empathy between our stratified society by inspiring dialogue across communities of people that represent the corners of our culture, history and socioeconomic status."

In Carrington's American Gothic sculpture, a pair of cast aluminum, steel-toe work boots hang over an electrical wire, and the pieces are integrated into the actual environment.

American Gothic hinges around the American Dream, questioning the dynamics of that term for the blue-collar worker.

"I always like to make things that will create and inspire conversations," Carrington said. "Where I get the most excited is if I can inspire people to think about [the sculpture] where it becomes a conduit to their ideas."

A "who's who" of artists will be on display, including work from Foon Sham, Riis Burwell, Oleg Lobykin, David Middlebrook and Peter Richards, among others. Middlebrook and Richards are actually two of Carrington's past mentors, as Carrington worked with them around the same time he was earning his Masters of Arts degree at San Jose State University.

Carrington has an extensive collection of works that has earned recognition by investigating issues of class and wealth distribution. He's been in constant communication with Powers and can't wait to see all the exhibits on display.

"I look at the artists [whose work is on display], and it's a pretty impressive list," he said. "I'm honored to be a part of the show."

Organizers of the SVS Fine Art Fair weren't sure if they could pull off the event during the pandemic, since so many variables were out of their control. However, things started to fall into place once Menlo College President Steven Weiner gave his stamp of approval.

"He was in strong support of moving forward, so when we heard that and also got feedback from informal surveys from board members, family, friends, colleagues and community groups who said they felt safe enough to attend something outdoors, we started to move forward," Cerrone said. "To have support from donors and people buying tickets was something we needed to see and was very encouraging."

It's a powerful reminder that as statues in the U.S. and in other parts of the world are being destroyed or removed because of their racist overtones, MPPA looks to erect large-scale sculptures that are exquisitely defined, abstract and free of political connotations.

"Anyone can interpret these sculptures in a very personal way," Cerrone said. "The pieces are so beautiful in an abstract way."

The theme of the inaugural SVS Fine Art Fair is "Past, Present, Progressive," and the sculptures will represent all three ideas as visitors walk the Menlo College campus. After months of lockdown, Carrington said the fair is just what the doctor ordered.

"It's really cool to have this outdoor opportunity to enjoy artwork, take it in and feel something," he said. "So many of us have been stuck and haven't been able to go to museums, and while online tours are available, there is something different about going to see art in person. There is an emotional connection to the work and I'm really excited to be able to provide that to someone."


Sept. 25
6pm: Opening reception and "Enchanted Soiree," President's House

Sept. 26
10am to 6pm: Art fair
2pm and 4pm: Panel discussions, Florence D. Moore Hall
6pm: Artist reception for Rotraut Morquay Klein, Art Ventures Gallery

Sept. 27
9am to 2pm: Art fair
2pm: Silent and live auctions
Parking is free. Events take place at Menlo College, 1000 El Camino Real, Atherton.