Dig in! Shovel donations sought for city and campus art project

Photo of artist Christopher Fennell while he was fabricating "Bats Baseball" using 600 used baseball bats for installation in Southside Park, Atlanta, Georgia in 2009.

Artist Christopher Fennell while he was fabricating “Bats Baseball” using 600 used baseball bats for installation in Southside Park, Atlanta, Georgia in 2009.

The City of Davis and the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden offer the public, along with their old shovels, a chance to leave a permanent mark on our community as they seek to collect 400 used spades, gardening trowels, shovels of all kinds for use in a campus and city outdoor art sculpture scheduled for completion this fall. Shovel collection will occur weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm at the city offices at 1818 Fifth Street and at the Arboretum’s spring plant sales (see dates and location below) through the end of May.

Artist Christopher Fennell will take recycling to new heights at the east end of the Arboretum when he builds a 16 foot tall vine-inspired gateway out of twisted steel pipes and 400 used shovel heads. Funded by the City of Davis Municipal Arts Fund, this landmark sculpture will mark the transition between downtown Davis and the Arboretum and serve as a symbol of town-gown collaboration.

The history of this project dates back to 2011, when, at the recommendation of the Davis Civic Arts Commission, the Davis City Council unanimously approved a proposal to allocate $40,000 towards the development of a sculptural gateway feature at the east end of the Arboretum. The proposal, stewarded by Emily Griswold, director of GATEways horticulture and teaching gardens for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, represents the first city art project on campus land.

The sculpture project dovetails with city and campus goals to improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation connections and help promote and market the campus and downtown area as an arts destination. Mayor Pro Tempore Dan Wolk has supported the project from the beginning, “I am so excited to see this project come to fruition. It will further connect downtown Davis and the campus and will serve as a focal point for residents, UC Davis students, and visitors to Davis for years to come.” (Download map showing location of sculpture. Adobe Acrobat required.)

Image of artist's sketches of the sculpture design.

Artist’s sketches of the sculpture design.

Last year a committee of campus, city, and community representatives selected Christopher Fennell from an applicant pool of 66 artists from around the nation to design and build the sculpture. Fennell – a sculptor from Alabama with an engineering background – specializes in the creation of large scale public art from dramatic collections of cast off materials.

“At a distance this gateway will look like vine inspired ironwork, but up close the viewer will notice that the vine leaves are actually used shovel heads,” says Fennell. “The diversity of shapes, sizes, and rusty patterns on used shovel heads collected from the community will give the sculpture a richness and character that would be unattainable with new materials.”

“The use of shovels to build a sculpture in the Arboretum has special resonance because of all the shovels that have been used by staff, students, and community members to plant the garden’s collections,” says Griswold. “We’d love for donors to give a second life to their shovels through this project, but we don’t want to leave them shovel-free just as spring arrives—so, when you drop-off a shovel at one of our locations, you’ll receive a coupon from locally-owned Davis Ace Hardware good for 15% off the purchase of a new shovel. It’s a great excuse to treat yourself to a new piece of hardware!”

Director of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and Assistant Vice Chancellor Kathleen Socolofsky is thrilled with the timing of this project, “The UC Davis Arboretum has just finished celebrating its 75th year and is moving forward as the UC Davis Arboretum & Public Garden. As we begin to plan what our future holds for the campus, city and community, this sculpture embodies the shared involvement with our region we believe will serve as a standard for all our projects, not just in the Arboretum, but throughout our university landscapes.”

The Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum will be collecting shovels for the installation at their spring plants sales. Drop off your used shovel during the dates and times listed below and stay to shop from the area’s largest selection of attractive, low-water, easy-care, region-appropriate plants.

Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum Spring Plant Sales and used shovel drive times:

SATURDAY, APRIL 6 from 9am-1pm
SUNDAY, APRIL 28 from 9am-1pm
SATURDAY, MAY 18 from 9am-1pm

Location: UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Teaching Nursery on UC Davis campus at Garrod Drive across from the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital

For more information:
Christopher Fennell: http://www.cfennell.org
Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum Spring Plant Sales: http://www.arboretum.ucdavis.edu/plant_sales_and_nursery.aspx

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