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Cerritos Grapples With Theft of ‘Pricey’ Public Art

Flying Heron, coming to Cerritos soon?

Flying Heron, coming to Cerritos soon?

By Kristin Grafft

Art theft is on the rise and Cerritos City Council may need to revise aspects of their Art in Public Places program to better ensure the safety of the city’s art pieces.

In an effort to beautify the city of Cerritos, developers who plan to renovate or build a new project that is valued at more than $250,000 are required to devote one percent of the valuation to the city’s Art in Public Places program.

Developers must either donate the amount to a fund that supports the program or select their own art piece to be installed on their property upon approval of the City Council.

However, city council members were faced with an unusual situation at their last meeting that has them considering bigger issues that may need to change within the program.

Mitsubishi Corporation that operates one of the world’s largest car companies, recently relocated to the City of Cerritos at a South Street location.

However, upon moving in, the executives discovered that the art piece that was once purchased to meet the Art in Public Places requirement had been stolen during the lots’ vacancy.

Although Mitsubishi is not renovating the site or building anything new, they are now required to replace the missing art piece, under the cities strict guidelines.

Because of the unusual circumstance, Mitsubishi came to the City Council requesting a loan to help pay for the new art piece during a meeting on July 8.

The Mitsubishi team selected a new art piece entitled, “Flying Heron,” created by artist Darrell Davis.

The sculpture will be placed on the fountain where the original art piece was located on the heavily travelled South Street.

Although the council members appeared to approve of the selected piece, many were hesitant to move forward without knowing whether or not this was strictly a unique issue or if they should look into amending the program to deal with future incidents of theft.

Councilmember Carol Chen expressed her support saying she believed the new owners “inherited this problem and that the situation was out of the norm.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Pulido also expressed supported, but added, “we need to make sure we appropriately address the situation of insurance… If the situation comes up again we need to make a policy for it.”

After a lengthy discussion regarding the details of the loan contract most council members seemed to support it. However, Councilmember George Ray also said, “It’s bigger than just this one project. I can support this because it’s unique, but it does bring up bigger issues.”

Immediately following Mitsubishi, the council was presented with the Kaiser Foundation’s chosen artwork, “Kindred” by Gerard Basil Stripling, for their new building at 10820 183rd Street.

Cheryl Thiele, the art consultant for Kaiser Permanente’s Creative Art Services represented the Kaiser Foundation in answering the Councils questions. Thiele also said, “We walked the site, we drove around in the neighborhood and we were very intentional in finding the best and the most safe place (for the art).”

Mayor Pro Tem Pulido, responded to her statement saying, “We want a safe and aesthetically pleasing entryway and I’m so glad you’ve taken all this into consideration.”

However, the council members also raised the concern over insurance, requesting Assistant City Manager Kathleen Matsumoto to work with the applicant on taking care of that.

Elizabeth Trombley, Director of Public Affairs for Kaiser Permanente in Downey, addressed that issue saying that Kaiser already insures its vast collection of artwork.

Thiele also said, “The issues that you’re talking about aren’t just within the city of Cerritos. I think it’s a bigger discussion within the whole public art arena. And so much of this has been driven by ambitious individuals trying to steal bronze, especially, for scrap metal. In the last couple of years, more bronze sculptures have been stolen than ever before.”

Thiele also added that one strategy she has seen work is by over-building the footings of the sculptures so that they cannot be uprooted and taken at all.

The council approved both art pieces and the Mitsubishi “loan” in unanimous votes.

City council member will explore amending the complex Art in Public Places program regarding the issue of theft in the next several weeks.

Several cities in the region have experienced high theft rates of taxpayer owned art displays during the past several months.

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