BRENTWOOD -- This time next year, the city plans to unveil its newest public art project, "Playful Winds," slated for display on the west entrance to town.
Ink was put to paper at the City Council's Sept. 24 meeting commissioning artist Brian Keith to create the two-piece bronze sculpture project, previously known as the Balfour Road Public Art project, which will emphasize the playfulness and diversity of the city.
"Brian was one of four finalists considered for the project," Parks and Recreation Director Craig Bronzan said. "In the opinion of the Arts Commission and City Council, he was best able to represent what they felt the community would relate to in the theme of 'Playful City' with his artwork."
The aim of the project is to highlight the city's six-year run as a Kaboom! "Playful City USA." Brentwood was one of only 213 cities nationwide in 2013 to receive the coveted "Playful City USA" recognition. The award recognizes "cities and towns that make play a priority and use innovative programs to get children active, playing, and healthy."
Bronzan credits the recognition by Kaboom! to the city's ongoing "commitment to provide quality play experiences through facilities and programs throughout the community."
Keith, a Discovery Bay resident, has created sculptures that are in public and private collections across the United States. His most notable sculptures were the 200 "exclusive edition" Ronald Reagan bronze busts he was commissioned to do by the Republican Party of Orange County in 2005.
In trying to conceptualize his pieces, Keith said he likes to "spend time on the actual location where they would probably be and just seeing all the elements."
During a visit to the slated Balfour Road location, he said, "You've got the high school, you have the golf, you have off in the distance Mount Diablo, but I think what really struck me is what I call the gentle breeze of Brentwood," Keith added. "I thought that was the emphasis that was needed, was to depict a playfulness with that, so something whimsical ... 'Playful Winds.' "
Recreation Manager Poldina Scherff described Keith's work as being "greatly inspired by the composition and nostalgic feel of paintings by the artist Norman Rockwell, and by the whimsical imagination of Dr. Seuss."
Keith described his first piece of the project, "A Princess Journey," as a young girl dressed in a princess ballerina outfit, clenching her rag doll with one hand as she grasps hold of her kite in flight with the other.
"It conveys a Norman Rockwell'ish storyline with a classical pose and gesture," Keith said. "It makes curiosity contagious as we step into art and wonder what lies ahead."
The second piece in the project, "First Flight," takes advantage of the wind by depicting a young boy on his tiptoes holding onto an umbrella that appears to be becoming air bound.
"His journey will depend on his imagination," Keith said. "This young, imaginative boy is dressed with a super hero cape, holding onto an umbrella -- the device he plans to use for his adventures. Yet, he wears an eye mask to hide his true identity."
Keith added, "Each sculpture is going to be made out of bronze, and it's something I wanted to portray -- a sense of a whimsical playfulness."
According to the city, the cost of the project will not exceed $100,000, of which funds will be transferred from the Public Art Program Acquisition Fund into the city's 2012/13 operating budget.
Keith is commissioned to begin the two sculptures next week, and when complete next fall they will be unveiled at their permanent location eastbound on Balfour Road, between Mountain View Drive and Foothill Drive, along the meandering sidewalk.
"Thanks to the Art Commission for helping to select this; we appreciate this very much," Mayor Bob Taylor said in response to Keith's council meeting presentation. "Anything to enhance our city is all a good thing. And to me, that just beautifies and makes Brentwood very unique."