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Office of Economic Development
Office of Economic Development

For Immediate Release

Berkeley's Newest Public Sculpture to be Installed in Downtown Core

Berkeley, California (Friday, December 27, 2002) – On January 2nd 2003, a prominent new outdoor sculpture will be installed alongside the most heavily traveled pedestrian corridor in Berkeley.  A project of the Berkeley Civic Arts Program, "Earth Song" is a deep-red painted steel sculpture by Po Shu Wang, a native of China and a Berkeley resident.  It will be installed east of the downtown Berkeley BART plaza, in the median strip of Center Street and Shattuck Avenue, by the mature elm tree.  An estimated one million people a year pass on foot between the BART plaza and the University of California, Berkeley campus.  "Earth Song" is designed to stimulate the imagination and to invite interaction from passersby, including students and the many others who are sure to be intrigued by the sculpture's metaphorical blending of art and science.  The sculpture will be dedicated in a public ceremony later in January, on a date to be announced.

"'Earth Song' is sure to become a landmark for Berkeley residents, students and visitors," said David Snippen, Berkeley architect and member of the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission.  "Its beauty as a sculptural object is enhanced by Mr. Wang's poetic interpretation of earth sciences, based on his extensive research."  "The way that this artwork interacts with the natural 'music' of the earth is fascinating," adds Susan Levine, Civic Arts Commission Chair.  "I believe it is unique for a public sculpture in a major metropolitan area."

"Earth Song" invites viewer participation.  The tall (approximately 42 feet high) but slender sculpture resembles a tuning fork, and was in fact conceived by the artist as a tuning fork for environmental vibrations.  The steel sculpture is, in the artist’s words, “tuned to the oscillating frequency of the Earth,” an extremely low frequency at a pitch far below audible human range.  It will be activated continuously with energy provided by the phenomena in its immediate environment—movement of BART trains, automobile and pedestrian traffic, and natural forces—all the while converting vibrations into the fundamental pitch of the earth.  The base of the sculpture is 14 inches wide, narrowing as it extends upward and splits into two prongs of the ‘fork.’  At 36 inches above ground, there is a small steel bell suspended from the base that is tuned to a higher pitch, which is audible to humans.  Pedestrians can ring the bell by hand, creating interaction with the sculpture and encouraging the viewer to linger and contemplate the sculpture's conceptual underpinnings.  Black granite pavers on the sidewalk etched with text explain the scientific basis of Mr. Wang’s concept.

"Earth Song" is one of several permanent public art projects currently being implemented to enhance improvements to the infrastructure of downtown Berkeley as stipulated by Measure S.

Hong Kong-born Po Shu Wang specializes in sculptures and installations that respond to natural phenomena and evoke a deep reverence for our environment.  Mr. Wang studied in Italy before settling in the East Bay; he now lives in Berkeley.  As an educator he worked at both the Oakland and San Francisco campuses of the California College of Arts and Crafts, and he taught a course on "Art and Taoism" in Rome, Italy.  He has completed public art commissions throughout the United States and Europe.  His most recent Bay Area projects include a sculpture at the entryway to the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, a sculpture in the median of California Avenue in Palo Alto, and a collaborative project with two other artists for the Moscone Center west building in San Francisco.

A selection panel chose Po Shu Wang to receive this artwork commission from a competitive field of 59 applicants internationally.  The selection panelists were Kevin Consey, director of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Robbin Henderson, director of the Berkeley Art Center; Susan Levine, Berkeley artist and Chair of the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission; John Martin, Berkeley business owner; Rachel Osajima, gallery manager; John Roberts, Berkeley landscape architect; and David Snippen, Berkeley architect and currently a member of the Civic Arts Commission.  The Civic Arts Commission approved Mr. Wang's sculpture and the proposed site, which was finalized with the cooperation of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).

For additional information about Berkeley's public art program, please contact Civic Arts Coordinator Mary Ann Merker via email or at the Berkeley Civic Arts Program located at 2118 Milvia Street, Suite 200, Berkeley 94704, or via phone at (510) 981-7533, fax at (510) 981-7540, or TDD at (510) 981-6903.  Information about Berkeley’s public art program is also available online.


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