Earthstone,Turtle Bay’s New Outdoor Exhibit: A Massive Sculptural Art Piece

Outdoor art is nothing new for Redding. Just look around at Caldwell Park or in front of the United Methodist Church.

Art can capture our imaginations and inspire us, although we’re often too busy for this to happen. But Turtle Bay is hoping folks around Redding – plus those who visit – will make the time for such worthy important things.

On a very hot Saturday, June 13, Turtle Bay launched its newest outdoor sculpture, Earthstone. Created by well-known Redding artist Colleen Barry, Earthstone sits in a circle with stones around the circle on a hillock, across from the Australian gardens, surrounded by new greenery and young trees, toward the eastern side of the McConnell Arboretum gardens.

Lawrence “Bud” Dillon commissioned the sculpture to honor his late partner Don Oestreicher, who passed away eight years ago. Dillon said the sculpture looks like something an ancient civilization might have left behind.

Done in earthy, natural colors, the sculpture is a very tactile piece, said Barry, as it’s covered with raised leaves and animals such as rabbits, fossils, bees and ducks.

“You can look at it many times and discover new things every time,” she said.

Barry says the void in the center was deliberate, so visitors see nature through the sculpture.

Four years in the making, the project included sketches, permitting and creating a scale model (on display at the event). Barry made all the animal pieces out of cast concrete and ceramic, rather than cutting them from glass.

“It’s quite unique to do this, she said.

Her scale model and concrete form were cast by Universal Precast Concrete on Clear Creek. These were moved with a crane and forklift to the warehouse where Barry put it all together.

The impetus for this project came during a walk Dillon took one day through Turtle Bay. There he discovered the Mosaic Oasis in the Children’s Garden.

Dillon was “blown away” to imagine someone had gone to Europe and hired a Barcelona-based artist (Barry’s work was influenced by the Spanish architect/artist Antonio Gaudi). He said the tile work was as good as what he’d seen there.

Learning it was created by a local artist (Barry), he arranged to meet her. Telling her about his former partner of 18 years and how they’d both loved art, Dillon said he wanted to create something to honor Oestreicher, something the community would enjoy.

The two worked to decide where to home the sculpture. After driving around, checking out sites, they chose Turtle Bay.

The completed piece was installed there last June but it’s taken a year to get the landscaping, plants and trails in place, along with interpretive signage and descriptive plaques.

“It’s rare to have a private citizen commission a piece,” said Barry. ““To be able to do a monumental piece like this, the opportunity doesn’t come along every day,” she said.

“This is quite an attraction to the garden,” said Turtle Bay’s President and CEO Mike Warren. “We’re very proud to have it here.”

Warren says there are dreams for the future for the Gardens.

One project is to build a bridge that makes it easier for visitors to get to Earthstone.

“But we’ll have to wait for some donor to come up with about $100,000 (for that) project,” he said.

Other “dreams” include a conservation carousel of animals and a nature area around the pond.

“We know what our dreams are,” Warren said. “It’s just a matter of being patient.”

The event featured a world-premiere commissioned “Season-Unison” for four cellos by Riley Nicholson of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, performed by the Cello Street Quartet of San Francisco. C.R. Gibbs provided appetizers.

There’s much to see and enjoy at the McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. And the new sculpture is sure to amaze and delight.

Debra Atlas

A former long-term resident of Redding who loves its natural wonders, journalist and blogger Debra Atlas is reachable www.Eco-hub.com or debraatlas@gmail.com

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