Translation Disclaimer

Office of Economic Development
Office of Economic Development

San Pablo aerial cropped 
San Pablo Park Public Art Project
 The Berkeley Civic Arts Program is commissioning an artwork to be installed in conjunction with the improvements being made to the children’s play areas and tennis courts at the southern end of San Pablo Park. 

The Civic Arts Program conducted a community engaged selection process to choose Michael Arcega’s artwork proposal for implementation. Michael Arcega proposed to create a series of unique colorful metal benches and decorative elements based upon local flowering plants to be interspersed throughout the southern end of San Pablo Park. 

MICHAEL ARCEGA Public Art Proposal: "Wildflowers, Bloom!"
Berkeley has long established itself as a leader in Civil Rights and counter-culture movements. Local activists have often used plants as a central component for healing, nurturing, and fostering strength across marginalized groups. Wildflowers, Bloom! is a simple and elegant theme that celebrates beauty, resistance and community. This artwork highlights endangered and useful flowering plants indigenous to Berkeley giving them a larger than life presence.

We use plant-based metaphors like Grass-roots, rhizomatic, cultivating, fruitful, blossom, diasporic and so many more to describe collective efforts and political scenarios. Slogans of resistance like “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds” are poignant and compelling. We equate plants to empowerment and the potency of community. Wildflowers evoke an unruly beauty that is diverse and stubborn. Like activists, wildflowers embellish humble cracks on sidewalks and enshroud great rolling fields that awe and amaze. They can transform a dreary scene into a heartwarming one. As a metaphor, wildflowers are markers of resistance to homogeneity and colonization.

Rather than a centralized monument, this artwork intersperses San Pablo Park with vibrant color and functional sculptures that invite engagement and dialogue. Wildflowers, Bloom! is intended to uplift and create a space that honors indigenous land and creates common ground for collective growth. The title is a call to action to be bold, diverse, and wonderful.
Arcega pic
The scope of this proposal includes a suite of three elements:

A) 6 Unique Benches of notable flowering plants from the area. This is a series of sculptural seating elements to replace the existing benches. Each functional artwork will be double-sided, approximately 8’ wide, 4’ tall, and varying seat depth with a maximum of 2 feet on each side (¾” waterjet cut steel, painted with durable exterior enamel paint).

B) 25 Wildflower Silhouettes will be installed throughout the park. These will be mounted on fences, posts, gates, directional signage, water fountains, bleachers, and other existing features to carry the native wildflower theme throughout, suggesting a rhizomatic spreading of wildness. With a variety of colors, the silhouettes range from 20” to 30” tall (1/4” waterjet cut steel, painted with durable exterior enamel paint).

C) 1 Seating Wall with approximately 30 wildflowers. The 14” concrete seating wall will have smaller but more dense arrangements of wildflower silhouettes. They will be attached directly to the concrete. The larger of these silhouettes will be 13” tall (1/4” waterjet cut steel, painted with durable exterior enamel paint).
 Click here to view Michael Arcega's high resolution proposal board.


There were three finalists for this project: Colette Crutcher, Mildred Howard, and Miriam Klein Stahl. You may view the other proposals here:

COLETTE CRUTCHER Public Art Proposal: 

Crutcher San Pablo Pic
I understand that I was chosen on the strength of my tile work. However, I have been
delighted and intrigued by public artworks created with metal for several years, and I
see this as a perfect venue for the medium. I propose two metal gates to welcome
families to the younger children’s playground, six colorful sculptural benches, four for
the 2-5 year-old playground, two for the walkway between playgrounds, and a mosaic
for the seating wall in the older kids’ playground.
I chose aquatic creatures because water is our lifeblood, our most valuable resource; in
order for children to grow up to value and safeguard it, they must be captivated by its
magic at a gut level. Most public artwork has philosophical underpinnings; my
philosophy is that our world is all too sensible and utilitarian, but lacks soul most of our
children get enough—or too much—to eat, but many are spiritually undernourished. My
use of hybrid and mythical animals grows out of a desire for playgrounds that liberate
the imagination.
The gates will provide a defining visual statement for the park, unifying the colors used
on the benches and providing a complement to the blues, greens and purples of the
play structures. With a combination of laser-cut metal and various gauges of colored
metal screen, the interplay of transparency and color will invite children in.

The crab (A) and fish (B), and two others not yet designed, will be placed in the 2-5
year-olds’ playground. The hippogryph (or horse/fish) bench (C), which is larger, and
another of similar size, will be placed on the walkway between the playgrounds, where
adults more loosely supervising older children can sit, and where it can be enjoyed and
used by those coming to the park without kids.
The gates and benches will be made of laser-cut metal, powder coated for brilliant,
durable color.
(A) Crab: 4’ high, 5’ 10” wide, 14” deep, Cornflower Blue
(B) Fish/bird: 3’ 9” high, 7’ 4” long, 14” deep, Orange
(C) Horse/fish (Hippogryph): 4’ 4” high, 8’ 3” long, 14” deep, Teal
Gate size TBD—I scaled it at 5’ high x 6’ wide, but details remain flexible.
The tile art for the seating wall in the 5-12 playground will represent an alligator, sea
serpent and/or other water dwellers, and will cover a swath of the seating wall, top and
side, approximately 36’ long. If artist participation is included before the concrete is
poured, the tiled portion can be inset in the wall, protecting its edges. Otherwise, the
tiled area, which will not encompass the entire wall, will be finished off with a bevel of
grout. Elaborately crafted handmade tile will be combined with cut-tile mosaic and
perhaps mirror, to animate the space and tie in the aquatic theme. If desired, workshops
can be held with local school children to allow them to participate in design and
fabrication of tile. This is a process I commonly use in my tile projects; it gives children
hands-on art experience, creates a sense of ownership for the community, and protects
artwork from vandalism.

Colette Crutcher high resolution proposal board


MILDRED HOWARD Public Art Proposal:

Howard San Pablo Pic

West African metal sculpture in copper, bronze and iron stands at the intersection of art, jewelry and wealth. In addition to being used as a currency for exchange, such objects could be worn as a sign of prosperity, embodying one’s power. Some of the hand-forged money was created in the shape of tools. As such, each piece of such currency possessed both a symbolic and an economic value. My proposal takes its inspiration from this powerful signifier, using traditional African currency from the Congo to memorialize the unsung contributions of the African-American community in the San Pablo Park neighborhood – a community that has been largely displaced due to gentrification and the rise of a new, digitally-oriented economy.

Surface design derived from African textiles can be used on the concrete bench surrounding a part of the children’s play area. Relief in strategic points will deter skateboarding in and near where children play.

This work symbolically celebrates the labor and perseverance of many African-American families who once owned homes around San Pablo Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Below the “red line” of Martin Luther King Street (then Grove Street), African-American businesses once thrived. San Pablo Park was a meeting place for families and friends to gather, take classes at the center, play tennis, watch a Negro League Baseball game and meet friends. In the wake of a virtual exodus of African-Americans throughout Berkeley and surrounding cities, it is crucial that their contributions to this community not be forgotten. This sculpture is a monument to the contributions made by African-Americans in Berkeley and a tangible metaphor for the wealth they worked so hard to build, even in the face of racism and oppression.

It is proposed that the artwork be place near the entry of the community center.

The sculpture will be made of bronze lost wax process. The surface of the sculpture will be rendered with West African influenced markings, bronze patina in color and waxed. The inner structure will be made of steel with stamped drawings showing the footings and mounting of the work on a plinth from the structural engineer along with architectural renderings. The artist will participate in all aspects of the fabrication process. Installation will be done by a professional art installation /contractor. The size of the sculpture is approximately 10’ in diameter and 18” in depth placed on a concrete base with a granite skin. Recommendation is for the sculpture to be placed at ground level as shown in the drawings. The reason for mounting the sculpture at ground level is to make it accessible to those in wheel chairs and physically challenged.

Mildred Howard's high resolution proposal board


MIRIAM KLEIN STAHL Public Art Proposal: "BBQ for the People"

Stahl Pic

My proposal for public art at San Pablo Park centers around replacing the hub of existing
barbeques located on the southwest side of the park with new functional and art
enhanced barbeques to serve the community at large. While not the first location to
come to mind when thinking about public art, the barbeque area plays a vital role in
gatherings and celebrations in the neighborhood, particularly within the Black community
that has been disproportionally affected by the housing affordability crisis of the Bay
Area. My hope for this project is to revive an area of the park that has been a central to
the community by creating beautiful and upgraded barbeques in this vital space of the

I live and work in Berkeley and I’ve taught art at Berkeley High School for the past 26
years. I’ve attended numerous events with my family and my students and their families
at San Pablo Park and the barbeque area is always the heart of these celebrations. So
when I went to visit the park this summer to brainstorm about this project, I immediately
focused on the barbeque area and its significance as a gathering point, noticing at the
same time that the barbeques are rusted out and some of them even have holes in the
bottom. I also considered how the barbeque is used in tandem with kids playing in the
playground and after sports activities – making it a central location of social interaction in
the park.

For this project, I plan to create an upgraded potluck area with new modern Corten steel
barbeques designed and fabricated by the local shop, Chris French Metal (CFM) in
which art images are waterjet cut directly into the metal. In the spirit of making socially
and politically relevant work, each barbecue will feature a portrait or depiction of a
significant movement that has shaped the rich culture and history of Berkeley, including
the Independent Living Movement, Arts and Culture, the Free Speech Movement and
Protest, and the Slow Food Movement. Each image will be based on an original
papercut that will be fabricated as a sculptural ‘papercut’ in cut metal that uses natural
light to reveal the designs. The barbeques themselves will be made with pre-rusted
Corten steel. The rust adds a layer of protection and will add a nice dark brown negative
space to the cut images.

The owners of CFM live three blocks from San Pablo Park and spent the past 20 years
going to community meetings at the park as well as watching their kids grow through
playing and celebrations at the park. CFM usually designs and fabricates objects for
private homes and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to create work for the public in
a community they are part of.
Rarely does public art involve functional and interactive works that serve the community.
Conceptually the barbecues will be a public art piece that is essentially usable sculpture
– making the barbecues and potluck area an enriched site of social interaction,
celebration, and also a place to reflect on the rich history of the people and movements
that have shaped the City of Berkeley into the incredible place it is today.

Miriam Klein Stahl's high resolution proposal board 

For more information, please contact: Civic Arts Program at, or (510) 981-7539

Home | Web Policy | Text-Only Site Map | Contact Us
Office of Economic Development, 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: Phone: (510) 981-7530
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903