By Carrie Yamato (News Staff Writer)
Rancho Palos Verdes residents John and Marilyn Long often boast about the open space and beautiful parks on the Peninsula. But on a recent trip to Europe, they realized their hometown was missing something.
"We went to London and in all the gardens they would have these beautiful sculptures," said Marilyn. "My husband and I really love art and we said to each other, 'We need to have sculpture art in [Palos Verdes]. How can we bring this to the Peninsula?'"
Marilyn didn't have to wait long for her answer. When she returned home, she contacted her friend Bob Yassin, who is the director of the Palos Verdes Art Center, and he referred her to Venice, Calif., sculptor Betty Gold.
A professional sculptor for more than 25 years, Gold's works are in more than 100 public and private collections and museums throughout the world. She is currently working on a 15-foot-tall steel structure that will be situated outside the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art on Spain's Mallorca Island.
"I loved her work immediately," said Marilyn of Gold. "We worked closely together, but I didn't give her any guidelines about what to sculpt [for the Botanic Garden]. I said, 'Betty, this is your project.' And she took off. She was excited after she came to the site."
On Solid Ground
While Gold completed the sculpture in a couple of months, it took the South Coast Botanic Garden twice that amount of time to get the project approved.
First, they needed approval from the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. Then they had to make sure the weight of the almost 1,300-pound sculpture would not create any geological problems.
"The head of the Parks and Recreation Department was very receptive and that helped us," said Norma Catafio, executive director of the South Coast Botanical Garden Foundation. "But, because we're on a landfill, we had to get an engineer to check the soil compact. The sculpture had to be put on a solid soil composition beyond the norm. We didn't want to put in anywhere where it would be hazardous."
Catafio said, however, that the time that went into the project was well-spent and that she is thankful to the Long Foundation for their gift.
"We always wanted to bring art to the garden, but the county wasn't sure they wanted us to do that," said Catafio. "Then the Long family came in and wanted to work with us."
The Long Foundation was set up by the Long family to provide funds for education, culture and the environment. "We look for causes that will make a difference in our community," said Marilyn. "We're also appreciators of art, and that's how we got involved with this."
"We're thrilled," said Catafio. "Now we have the combination of art and horticulture to enhance the experience for the visitors. It's fabulous."
Standing 10 feet and weighing more than a ton, the sculpture, made of interlocking triangular shapes of Corten steel, is situated near the front entrance. Titled, "Soller I," it is named after the Spanish city where Gold conceived of the idea.
"Sculpture makes an eloquent statement about the richness that can be achieved when there is a merger of art and the space in which it dwells," said Marilyn. "South Coast Botanic Garden is a real treasure -- 87 acres of beautifully landscaped plants, trees and flowers. This art piece creates an environment that enriches those who visit this vast Garden of Eden."
The South Coast Botanic Garden is located at 26300 Crenshaw Blvd. It is open from Monday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(This article was taken, in whole, but reformatted, from the Palos Verdes Peninsula News online newsletter. To see the original you must search the archives.)