Portable Park At Santa Monica Place Through Sunday

Friday, 3 Feb 2012, 1:12:00 AM

Anne Nagamoto

Remaining plants will be given away on Sunday to those who make a donation.
Photo by Susan Sanchez/Otis College of Art and Design
Remaining plants will be given away on Sunday to those who make a donation.

Something different is happening at Santa Monica Place, but only for nine days.

A temporary installation of art works is now on view throughout the mall until this Sunday, Feb. 5. This show is part of Pacific Standard Time, an ongoing celebration of Los Angeles art, and is one of the few Pacific Standard Time events happening in Santa Monica.

The show’s centerpiece is a flower-shaped garden that graces the mall’s center court.

The unexpected sight of a hand-crafted garden amid the mall’s concrete, glass and steel is delighting visitors.

The garden is designed in a way that invites visitors to stroll among the flowers, herbs and trees; it also can be viewed from the mall’s upper floors. Recorded sounds of birds, crickets, and frogs may be heard at times, adding to the multi-sensory park experience.

The garden installation, titled “Portable Park IV - past-present-future = A Living Library,” is the work of Bonnie Ora Sherk, an artist/environmentalist/landscape architect who, in the 1970s, made 24-hour parks in unlikely places, bringing sod, trees, and farm animals into the streets of downtown San Francisco. This garden rethinks the portable park concept for 2012.

“In 1970 it was a very different world,” Sherk said. “This project is more about sustainability, urban agriculture. I hope people will focus on the beauty of natural things.”

Students from the Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences made signs for the garden’s various sections and botanical artwork representing fruits and flowers.

In addition to the garden, the show displays works created by students of the Masters of Fine Arts Public Practice Program of the Otis College of Art and Design.

Students in the program learn about making art more accessible, bringing art to public places rather than traditional spaces like art galleries or museums, explained first-year student Silvia Juliana Mantilla Ortiz.

The program is based in the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica and is one of few such programs in the nation.

The students’ works, collectively titled “Consuming Nature,” explore different aspects of environmental sustainability and consumer culture.

For example, “Setting Sun” screens a video recording of a sunset every evening for 15 minutes in a storefront on the mall’s second floor. The daily screenings are timed to coincide with the natural sunset.

“I would love for people to feel surprise, to have an unexpected experience of something beautiful,” said Tamarind Rossetti. “Any time you’re in a mall, there’s a lot of glass and you see reflections in all the windows. I hope people will have a moment of reflection about time passing instead of just thinking about buying what’s inside the store.”

The temporary art show opened on Saturday, January 28 with a welcome ceremony and student projects that included a life-size performance/sculpture chess game, and green tours of the mall led by student Susan Sanchez.

Sanchez described the mall's green initiatives such as its bird abatement program, which keeps the mall free of pigeons and seagulls.

“Twice a week, very early in the morning, a falcon is brought in and let loose to fly in the mall so the pigeons and gulls know not to come here. Other malls use electric strips and sharp, pointy edges on the tops of their roofs,” she said.

The show is a collaborative effort of several entities including the Otis College of Art and Design and the City of Santa Monica's Cultural Affairs Division and Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

The show’s closing ceremony on Sunday will end with a plant adoption. Remaining plants from the garden will be given away to those who make a donation to the program.

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