Capturing the Rhythm of
Downtown Santa Monica
Santa Monica Centric
Stop, look, think: Downtown Santa Monica's latest public art project inspires visitors to appreciate the world around us
By Kevin Herrera

Architect Jeanine Centouri and her husband, artist Russell Rock, want you to put down your cell phone and start paying attention to the world around you. There's plenty of beautiful things out there and you're missing out.

 

With "Site Lines," Centourie and Rock, of Urban Rock Design, have placed a series of drawing-inspired metal plates along the Third Street Promenade, overlaid onto elements seen along the popular pedestrian mall — dinosaur topiaries, building fragments and storefront displays. When viewers position themselves in the sight line, the metal plates and corresponding subject matter come into alignment and focus.

 

The physical plates are color-coded and attached to light poles at various locations long the Promenade.

 

"Our inspiration is one of trying to make something aesthetically appealing and surprising, something that will make you pause and look at your environment more carefully," Centourie said. "There is so much activity and vibrancy on the Promenade that you can miss something. We wanted to call attention to aspects of the Promenade that are a little quieter, but are beautiful remnants of the past. The message is to slow down a bit and take it all in."

 

The public art addition is the latest installment for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and the City of Santa Monica Art Commission's public art initiative ROAM Santa Monica, created to activate the public realm and expand cultural offerings in Downtown Santa Monica. 

 

"Art has a transformative power, especially when it is presented on a large scale in a public space," said Nick Efron, public space manager for DTSM, Inc. who managed the ROAM installations. "It helps to create a thriving, family-friendly gathering spot, all the while fostering a greater sense of community by inviting folks to linger. Finding alternative ways to activate public spaces has never been more important than it is now, especially in the wake of the ever-changing retail landscape. This was the ultimate goal of ROAM — to leverage the creativity and power of the arts to help create a distinct sense of place Downtown."

 

A companion piece, "Site Lines Past," is located at Triangle Square, downtown's newest public space on Colorado Avenue across from Santa Monica Place. It features three large view cones clustered together in the center of Triangle Square's lawn. The brightly colored view cones invite people to peer into the oculus located at each end of the cones.

 

 

Inside of each cone are three views of erased local histories. They include an image of a Tongva woman. The Tongva people were the early inhabitants of Santa Monica before Spanish settlers arrived and enslaved them. Learn more about this sad chapter in our local history here.

 

Another view cone includes a photo of African Americans at what was then called Inkwell Beach, an area at the western end of Pico Boulevard where people of color were essentially forced to swim, as harassed result of harassment at other beaches in the Santa Monica Bay. Read more about the presence of African Americans along Santa Monica's coastline here.

 

The third view cone offers a black-and-white photo from the 1890s of Third Street, complete with a dirt road and horse and buggy.

 

"With 'Site Lines Past' at Triangle Square, we wanted to evoke some of the erased history of this public gathering place. We did a lot of research and worked with a local scholar to choose three images that provide a snippet of the city's rich history. We're really just scratching the surface here."

 

Centouri and Rock specialize in creating art work for public spaces to bring people together and spark conversation.

 

"We are constantly bombarded with photographic images and I think art needs to go beyond that and make visceral connections that you experience," Centouri said. "We like to make projects that are more than the photograph of their likeness, so there is a richer experience by being there, and to connect the site to its past or something that is invisible or not easily understood. I think those experiences enable us to think about why we are in a particular place together, about society and civility. It's a common ground that is very important today, to realize we have commonalities with our neighbors."

 

The companion projects will be featured for the next few months.

"Our inspiration is one of trying to make something aesthetically appealing and surprising, something that will make you pause and look at your environment more carefully." — Jeanine Centouri of Urban Rock Design

Kevin Herrera is a former journalist turned marketing and communication expert, beer enthusiast, cyclist, cultural observer/commentator and expert on all things Downtown Santa Monica. He is currently the sr. marketing & communication manager for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. 

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