Spirit Poles

Concord’s Spirit Poles

Spirit Poles
Spirit Poles Photo courtesy of Joshua Bello

1989 In Concord, Ca., 91 aluminum rods were erected in a median strip along Concord Ave. by artist Gary Rieveschl of Cincinnati and dubbed the “Spirit Poles.” They became unstable after a few years and were destroyed in 2001. Rieveschi received a payment of $75,000 to surrender his claim to the poles.

(San Francisco Chronicle, 6/22/04, p.B5)

Spirit Poles
Spirit Poles

The Spirit poles were part of a large scale public art project that extended down Concord Ave from Market St to Salvio St. It was intended as a “gateway” project into the downtown area. The concept was a feeling perpetual motion (up/down & side to side) as you drove along Concord Ave. This was supposed to represent the continual changes of our area from the local indigenous tribes to the Spanish settlers to modern day Concord. (Who really understands the mind of an “artist”?)
The project included ALL the landscaping. Flowers, bushes, trees and the poles. The original plan called for a total of >100 poles. It also included a pedestrian walkway through the center of the “sculpture area”. Ivy was supposed to grow up the poles to soften the metallic look in contrast to the foliage of the rest of the project. This was the concept that was presented to the community for at least 18 months at various town hall meetings, chamber of commerce meetings, service group meetings, etc.
When the city council finally approved the plan, they decided that they did not want to spend the money necessary to create the full plan so they made cut backs which included (but was not limited to) less poles, no pedestrian walkway & fewer plants. Whether or not you agree with public art, I think we can all agree that politicians should not look over the shoulder of an artist at work.
Needless to say, the public outcry was immediate (an obviously continues to today). The ivy would not stick to the brushed aluminum design of the poles. People only saw the poles and never the whole project. Fewer poles (and no walkway) meant that the complete feel of the design was never recognized.
I don’t know about safety issues…
I am convinced that is was a ruse created by McManigal & Allen to get rid of public art in Concord. Maybe there were cracks, I don’t know.Never-the-less, what remains is the beautiful landscaping along Concord Ave (along with the emphasis on landscaping throughout the city). So the poles are gone, the flowers remain and the controversy continues…
A history of the the Spirit Poles by Claycord reader, dotdotdot

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