Friday, March 21, 2008

Steel sculptures find home at Elings Park


Nestled at the top of Elings Park, where sweeping views of the mountains and city are abundant, the 8-feet-tall steel sculptures known as “Mythical Dancers” have finally found a permanent home.
For the past 10 years, the sculptures, forged from bent steel by local artist M. Helsenrott Hochhauser, have been on display in her yard. But when she recently moved, she wanted the three female figures that represent her mother, sister and herself, to land someplace where the community could enjoy them.

“I’m just so delighted that I’m giving it to the community,” said Hochhauser, who will be on hand today when the sculpture is dedicated at 1 p.m. “It’s an honor for me to have it there so people can enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.”
“Mythical Dancers” is the second installment to the park’s Sculpture in the Park program, which began in 2004 when the marble piece “Summit for Danny,” was placed at the entrance to Godric Grove.
Steen Hudson, the park’s executive director, said the sculptures compliment the mission of Elings Park to be a diverse, mixed-use park for the thousands who visit each year.
“I think it’s a great use of the land we’re stewarding here at Elings Park,” Hudson said. “It adds to the feel and ambiance and the culture of the community and the park.”
With soccer, baseball and softball fields, a BMX track and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, the 230 acre park that was founded in 1980 offers an abundant amount of opportunity for exercise enthusiasts, but Hudson said many people come to the park to take leisurely strolls as well.
He said the sculptures add another element that will draw people to the park, and he hopes to showcase the works of more artists in the future, though none are on the immediate horizon.
Hudson said both sculptures were donated to the park, which is a private nonprofit and does not receive any money from the city of Santa Barbara.
The park’s annual $1.2 million operating budget is overseen by a 20-member board of directors.
Hudson said much of the park’s budget is raised through fees it charges for field rentals and special events, but access to the park is free for all.
Located on a portion of the city’s former dump, the park and its operation is a rare case in this country, where Hudson figures roughly 99 percent of parks are owned and operated and funded by tax dollars.
Hudson said he thinks “Mythical Dancers” is a good addition to the park and will compliment its mission.
“It’s a wonderful display of free movement in the outdoors and fits really well with what the park is all about,” he said.
The three steel figures that make up the sculpture are each attached to a pivot that is imbedded in concrete, which allows the sculpture to move.
Originally from New York, Hochhauser said she’s lived in Santa Barbara for the past 20 years and cut the steel for “Mythical Dancers” at Santa Barbara City College with the help of an assistant.
Hochhauser declined to reveal her age, but said she’s been an artist for more than 50 years, dabbling in everything from sculpture to paper making — a genre she has studied in Japan.
She said her hope for “Mythical Dancers,” which she also calls “Mythical Dancers Min, Ev and Mar,” the first part of the women’s names the figures are based upon, is that people who walk around Elings Park like herself, will enjoy them.
“I like walking up there. It’s a wonderful place,” she said. “[The sculpture is] a really fun thing and I’m sure the community is going to love it.”
The reception begins at 1 p.m. today and will include wine and cheese. “Mythical Dancers” is at the top of George Bliss Drive, which is located within the park at 1298 Las Positas Rd.

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