JOB'S A BEAR STATUE TO DEPICT HISTORY IN THE VALLEY.
VALENCIA - History bears repeating.
A 5-foot-tall fiberglass bear statue covered with artwork depicting Santa Clarita Valley history will be erected in Valencia Heritage Park, the first in a series of bear statues that proponents hope will spread throughout California.
``We wanted to do something like the Trail of Painted Ponies in New Mexico,'' said Phil Lantis, who heads the city's Arts and Events office. ``It's been in the works for a couple of years now. We brainstormed with the Arts Alliance and the Cultural Arts Commission to come up with some sort of public art project.
``Initially, we thought we might want to do something that tied in with the Cowboy Festival, but then we decided to expand beyond that event and hopefully beyond our borders.''
The California Bear Project, launched Wednesday with an online request for qualifications, will involve artists of all mediums in the creation of the bears, which will be placed at various locations throughout the city.
``Heritage Bear,'' which will be installed in April, is the only one that is restricted in its subject matter.
All other bears - five are planned for the second installation in January 2006 - can be decorated with themes of the individual artists' inspirations.
Lantis said that bears were selected because legend has it that the giant grizzly bear on the California flag was killed in Soledad Canyon by Col. John Lang. The ``Monarch of the Mountains'' reportedly weighed 2,350 pounds and stood tall enough to get into second-story windows.
The bear figures created for this project will replicate that enormity, standing 5 feet high at the shoulder and providing ample canvas for artists to work.
Eddie Skade of the Valencia studio Imagine That created a maquette, or miniature model, of the bear that will be sculpted from condensed florist foam and coated with fiberglass. From that, a mold will be made for future bears.
``I did a lot of research on the Internet,'' Skade said. ``It should take me about two weeks to sculpt it; I'll just sculpt away everything that doesn't look like a bear.''
This is the studio's first public-art works, but it has many creations on public display, said Skade's partner, Eric Berg.
The studio created three dragons and arches that grace the entrance to Los Angeles' Chinatown, a 45-foot-tall Buzz Lightyear at the Disney Resort in Florida, and King Kong and the Jurassic Park dinosaurs from Universal Studios Tour.
``We've done work for every theme park,'' Berg said. ``Lots of special effects and theme things. But it's nice to be a part of this. Usually our work goes out of state or overseas, but we'll be able to see this every day.''
If the project succeeds, Lantis plans to offer the bears to other California cities to start or augment their public art programs.
``This is something that smaller communities that might not have a public art coordinator can do,'' he explained. ``Of course, we'd be thrilled if big cities come on board, kind of like what happened in New Mexico.''
The project is open to all artists, age 18 and over. Selected artists will receive a $3,000 stipend to cover materials and artists' fees. The city will provide the premade fiberglass sculpture and will apply a final clear protective finish when artwork is complete. Sponsorships will be available for the second installation of bears.
Applications and the request for qualifications information are available by visiting www.californiabearproject.com or calling the Arts and Events office at (661) 286-4018. Completed application packages must be submitted to the Arts and Events office no later than 5:30 p.m. Jan. 17, 2005.
Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252
(1 -- color) Eddie Skade, left, and Eric Berg of Imagine That in Valencia created a maquette, or miniature model, of the bear that will be sculpted from condensed florist foam and coated with fiberglass. From that, a mold will be made for future bears.
(2 -- color) Eddie Skade holds a small sculpture of ``The Monarch of the Mountains,'' the giant grizzly bear on the California flag believed killed in Soledad Canyon by Col. John Lang.
David Crane/Staff Photographer