City Council approves artwork for Dry Creek Trailhead

By Valerie Shelton, Editor

Those walking, jogging or riding their bikes on the trails of Clovis will soon have a focal point to visit on their journey at the Dry Creek Trailhead.

At a council meeting Jan. 11, council members approved the donation of “Running Time” a sizable art piece to be placed on the pedestal at the trailhead located at Sunnyside and Shepherd Avenues—a major intersection for many of the city’s trails.

The piece features a large mechanical-style horse—about one and a half times the size of a standard horse. The horse appears to be in motion and at its core features a working clock, thus the title “Running Time.” The artist behind the massive piece is Clovis High graduate Brandon Greer, who also created two of the statues along the Heritage Walk—“The Walking Doctor” and the statue of Fumio Ikeda.

Greer said he was inspired to create a piece that embodies not only the values of Clovis as a whole, but incorporates the rural elements that may be seen in the Sunnyside and Shepherd area that is currently on the northern edge of Clovis. The rural components tied in are the subject itself, a horse, and the mechanical parts used to design it—parts from old cars and tractors that may be seen housed in one’s large backyard or on the ranch. The overall theme is more representative of all of Clovis, as the piece intends to pay homage to its rural agricultural past, draw from its industrial present, and signify its creative future. The addition of the clock also represents the idea that time is constant and things are changing in Clovis over time. It also adds a functional element to the art.

Greer said he feels all these aspects come together in his piece, making it an excellent fit for the Dry Creek Trailhead.

“I think it serves a community well to present things that motivate the aesthetics in the community and this is a beautiful site being on the corner of Sunnyside and Shepherd and this piece lends itself to that area,” Greer said. “I grew up around horses as a young child and that area has a tendency to have some horses and riders as well. My personal opinion has always been that this is a western town. When I think of California and I think of the west, Clovis comes to mind and nothing personifies the west better than a wild horse running. I feel this piece is a good fit for the site as well as the City of Clovis.”

“Running Time” differs from the public artwork currently on display throughout the city. With the exception of the statue honoring military service dogs outside of the Miss Winkles pet adoption center, all other pieces of public art have been located along the Heritage Walk on the Old Town Trail. Each of those pieces were created specifically to flow together under a common theme and are all bronze statues of prominent figures and scenes in the city. Although significantly different in terms of design, Greer said “Running Time” will be a piece of public art the community can be proud of as it brings together historical, rural and industrial elements.

“Being a graduate of Clovis High and having lived in the community, I have an appreciation for the history of this community so building something old in relation to the clock was something I wanted, plus when you’re on the trail you might not always be aware of the time so it adds function to it,” Greer said. “It’s also a very interesting piece with a lot of working components and I’ve tied in a lot of different parts from tractors, cars and different aspects of what I feel fit into a rural setting, like having things in the backyard that you never get rid of. I’ve gathered a lot of those together and made a model of what I feel is both old and new and would work well with the City of Clovis and with the trail being kind of on the rural edge of Clovis.”

Greer also said it is important for a city like Clovis to embrace public art.

“I am very appreciative of the opportunity and supportive of the fact that Clovis is a community that is constantly reinventing itself,” Greer said. “If you have been to Boise or Oregon and some of these towns that have a similar demographic as Clovis, you’ll notice that those places have always centered their cultural activities around art and we can trace that all the way back to Europe. I think in Clovis, one of the only things lacking, if it is lacking anything at all, would be this kind of open arm embracing of art in the community. We have a great start here and we’ve done some beautiful things but I think more art can never hurt the community. If something like this piece generates some movement for young people when they look at it and they think of doing art or going that direction, then as an artist that is a windfall for me. I never thought I would be in a position before you presenting art on this scale. I’m honored and privileged and I hope this art will speak to everybody in the community.”

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen said he loves the piece.

“When I look at it, it almost generates movement inside of me,” Whalen said. “It is an exciting piece. I see the swiftness of the horse, I see that time is constantly running if you will, and the industrial aspect of the horse to me ties our history in agriculture with how we’ve progressed into the industrial revolution and into now what I think is a more service-oriented or information based and creative economy so all of those three aspects—what Clovis has been in the past, what Clovis is in the present and will be in the future as far as creativity—are captured in this piece so I’m excited about the opportunity for us to be able to receive it as a donation.”

Mayor Nathan Magsig, who is a strong advocate for the visual arts and encouraged Greer to design a unique piece for the Dry Creek Trailhead, also had nothing but positive things to say about “Running Time.”

“There were numerous ideas [Greer] came up with, some of which were impossible to do but ultimately what this piece represents is a lot of the things Bob [Whalen] talked about with past, present, future and time setting all those things together in motion. The direction the artist was given on this piece was to make something representative of our values, something that represents our past, present and future and as we grow as a city it is important for us not to forget where we came from. We talked over the course of the month and I didn’t tell him to make a horse or anything like that, the artist did that on his own. I love that about Brandon [Greer]. He is one of the best when it comes to abstract art like this. I’ve never seen another artist like this.”

Councilmember Jose Flores also said he liked the piece.

Councilmember Lynne Ashbeck, who expressed at a previous meeting that the piece was not her taste, abstained from voting on the donation of “Running Time.” Magsig, Flores and Whalen approved the donation with Ashbeck abstaining and councilmember Harry Armstrong absent.

Ashbeck did say that whatever her personal feeling on the art that she would like to see a more formal process for accepting art in the future. Her suggestion was that the city use similar guidelines to those used for art on the Heritage Walk and that a committee be formed to approve public art according to such guidelines.

Magsig said for commissioned pieces paid for by the city and ultimately public funds that a process is needed, but argued against having a formal process for artists wanting to donate a piece.

“If there is an individual that chooses to go out and create something, they do it at their own risk that the council may not accept it,” Magsig said. “I wouldn’t want to put constraints on someone letting them know there is some kind of process where someone else may ultimately get to decide what their piece looks like even if the piece is being paid for by a private individual.”

Although the piece may be donated, though, Ashbeck noted that it would still require staff time to install the piece and there would be maintenance costs so still some public funds would be used.

Flores agreed that although it “sounds cold” to have a formal process for accepting public art, that the community does need to reach a consensus before putting a piece on display. He suggested the city form a larger, more diverse committee than the one used for the Heritage Walk.

“This is the only committee I think we should make as large as possible because you can’t have a planning commission or group of five people dictate what is beautiful in Clovis,” Flores said. “We should have a very inclusive committee of plenty of people.”

Councilmembers agreed and directed staff to come up with a more formal process for accepting public art, using the Heritage Walk guidelines as a starting point.