Sac State Professor Rachel Clarke and alumnus Bryan Valenzuela check out the installation of Valenzuela’s “Multitudes Converge” glass sculpture at the Golden 1 Center.
Sacramento State has a prominent role in the look of the Golden 1 Center, the new downtown arena. Many University students, faculty, and alumni are responsible for some of the public art on prominent display at the facility that is the new home of the Sacramento Kings.
When the arena’s art centerpiece, renowned artist Jeff Koons’ “Piglet,” was unveiled recently before an enthusiastic crowd, it wasn’t the only public artwork making its debut.
Many other large-scale pieces were getting their first look by the public, and that included works by Sac State alumnus Bryan Valenzuela. His “Multitudes Converge” is a large suspended glass sculpture that presents an abstract interpretation of the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers.
About 400 hand-blown glass spheres are mixed to create a 50-foot-long cascading effect.
“It’s been a whirlwind to be part of this whole thing,” Valenzuela says of the experience. “To be next to the Jeff Koons piece and to just be in this incredible state-of-the art arena – it’s fascinating.”
Many Sac State students will soon be represented as well.
Professor Rachel Clarke’s students worked all summer on animated art for the Golden 1 Center. Twenty of their works will be selected to rotate on the 25-foot-tall video screens flanking the arena’s six-story glass hangar door, creating a continuous movement of animated art.
The works will be debuted on the signs later this year.
Some of the contributing artists have deep roots with Sac State and the greater community. Three artists from the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) artists collective are working on “Flight,” a large-scale piece that eventually will cover a 35-foot-high wall at the arena’s east entrance on K Street.
The work by Juanishi Orosco, Stan Padilla, and Esteban Villa is designed to inspire interpretations of flight, whatever the perspective of the viewer.
“It’s what we’ve been doing for the last 40 years,” Orosco says. The group has been creating works of public art all that time, starting with its formation in the University’s Art Department. “Sacramento State was our home base. That’s where it all started.”
And now Clarke’s students are following in these impressive footsteps.
The screens that will present their art were primarily an advertising venue, but became a focus for public art for Shelly Willis, executive director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (SMAC). She approached Professor Clarke, who teaches New Media Art and previously had worked with SMAC on the popular Broadway Augmented virtual-art project in 2014.
Clarke was eager to take on the new challenge. “Art on urban screens is an emerging area within public art, due to the proliferation of these screens,” Clarke says. “It’s a great way to reach audiences outside of an art gallery or museum.”
Each screen is composed of LED panels made by Panasonic, which provided technical specifications to the students. Many of the artists participated in a hard-hat tour of the arena to get a feel for the environment and what the art might look like.
About 60 students from Clarke’s classes took part in the project, submitting works that cover a wide range of styles and themes.
Senior Abisai Lopez submitted two works – one that looks at a repetition of gears and their movement within an enclosed space, and another that has two orbs of light dancing and interacting, producing sparks in the process.
“Both pieces took about four weeks to create,” Lopez says. “There wasn’t much time for the whole project, and I needed to adjust my ideas to fit within the time requirement while also considering the huge screen it would be displayed on.”
Third-year student Marinna Hill created an interpretive representation of Sacramento. The animation begins with a barren landscape that is slowly overtaken by foliage and eventually becomes a figure that reaches upward.
A Sacramento native, Hill based the work on her changing interpretations of the city. “I have gone through the belief that Sacramento is just a barren, boring place to live,” Hill says. “Having gotten older, I have realized what a great city it is, and how much it has grown and continues to grow.”
Clarke herself has created a piece that started with imagery captured at Nimbus Dam. “It’s a visual exploration of water as the source of life – something we’ve become very aware of in these drought-ridden times,” she says.
Her colleague in New Media Art, instructor Mikko Lautamo, also has a piece in the screening, a generative animation called “Divide.” “ ‘Divide’ is about polarizing points of view, and how decisions are made in a community,” Lautamo says.
A special panel selected 20 of the works, which were then confirmed by the city’s art commission.
Clarke and her students greatly appreciate the opportunity to present their works in this forum.
“The project has been a unique class assignment that gave us the opportunity to talk about new-media art in a public context,” Clarke says. “It’s definitely an honor to be part of this historical project.”
“It most definitely is an honor to be given a chance to display one’s passion for art and one’s potential to the community,” Lopez says. “The experience proved challenging, but it was a brilliant learning experience.”
“It means a lot to be involved in a project of this scope,” Hill says. “To give the rest of Sacramento a glimpse of what this city means to me is an amazing opportunity that I will never forget.”
For more information on Sacramento State’s Art Department and programs, visit al.csus.edu/art or call (916) 278-6166. More information on SMAC’s Public Arts program can be found at sacmetroarts.org. – Craig Koscho
In the Media: