Business & Real Estate

Los Altos to decide whether downtown statue will permanently "guard" area


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
“The Guardian,” which sits on a pedestal outside the Costume Bank on State Street, will be returned to its creator unless the city renews the contract or buys the sculpture.

A public sculpture that has stood guard over downtown Los Altos for longer than most artwork acquired through the city’s art loan program may be shipped back to its creator soon if the city declines to purchase it, according to two members of the Public Arts Commission who reached out to the Town Crier.

The commission selected and installed “The Guardian,” the bronze statue of a fairy-like creature sitting on a pedestal outside the Costume Bank on State Street, in 2013 for its “whimsical” appearance, Commissioner Nancy Ellickson said.

New Orleans native Karen Cauvin Eustis conceived “The Guardian” while lounging on the beach reading a book in Waveland, Miss. It was scheduled to be unveiled the day Waveland became “ground zero” for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Festivities for the first sculpture in the set of eight identical guardians were canceled; Cauvin Eustis was left in shock. The artist later realized that “The Guardian” should signify a new hope, and her original statue sits over what was once the epicenter of devastation.

“One early morning, after considering the whys endlessly, the answer came to me in what can best be described as a gestalt of understanding,” Cauvin Eustis said on her webpage dedicated to the set of sculptures. “She was created and completed in the midst of tragedy, but to me became a magnificent representation of the heart and spirit of the people, who in time not only endured but actually grew with ferocity.”

Return, renew or buy?

“The Guardian” has had a positive impact in Los Altos, too: The statue from the series installed on State Street prompted the city to clean up the area where it sits now, once covered in weeds and high, stocky plants, Ellickson said.

The lease on the statue ends this month. Cauvis Eustis has not offered to donate the piece, so the city either must give it back to the artist, renew the contract for a few more years or purchase it so that it will become part of Los Altos’ permanent collection. Initially priced at approximately $75,000, the artist offered to lower it to $35,000 during her recent stop in Los Altos on a road trip.

“With pieces that are popular and liked by the community, we try to extend,” Ellickson said. “(Cauvin Eustis) offered to extend the loan for two more years, with the possibility that we would strongly discuss and consider purchasing (the statue).”

If “The Guardian” remains in the city, it may be relocated, Commissioner Hilary King said. No specific locations have been discussed, though if local residents weigh in, the matter could appear on the commission’s agenda for its next meeting, scheduled Thursday.

Along with considering the fate of “The Guardian,” the Public Arts Commission plans to send out another call for art soon for its loan program and will continue its speaking program after the first of the year. The commission is also in the process of developing a roadmap for the next year, including the possibility of sponsoring a community art project that would enable families and school communities to leave their mark on Los Altos.

To view more of artist Karen Cauvin Eustis’s work, visit karencauvineustis.com.

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