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Renowned trompe-l’oeil (French for “deceive the eye”) muralist John Pugh is in the final stages of creating a mural titled “Well Spring” for the Elkhorn Water Tower in North Natomas. The monumental artwork consists of three images to be installed this fall on the east, west and south sides of the water tower. The images are of a magnificent oak tree that looks as though it is bursting out of the water tank. Native birds are perched on the tree branches and roots. Pugh is working on the mural at his Truckee studio. He paints the artwork on a non-woven material that looks like canvas and will install the murals in a process similar to installing wallpaper. Once complete, the artwork will look as if it was painted on the tower. Pugh has completed over 250 public murals. He has two projects nearby at the Sacramento County Youth Detention Center on Keifer Blvd., and the Sacramento County Parking Garage at 7th and F Streets. John recently completed a mural at the historic Del Oro Theater in Grass Valley, California, and at the Westside Recreation Center in Calgary, Canada. More of John Pugh’s work can be found on his


Twelve sculptures at the Sacramento International Airport were cleaned and restored last week. The 9-year old sculptures, by Dennis Oppenheim (1938 – 2011), are made with stainless steel, acrylic, lexan, fiberglass, and metal and located on and near the Terminal A parking garage. Fondly referred to by the general public as the “bird sculptures” and formally titled “Flying Gardens, the artworks are recognized by anyone who travels through the Sacramento Airport. Over the years insects, dust and debris have accumulated inside and outside the artworks. Last week, the sculptures were meticulously taken apart, cleaned, and put back together by a professional conservator.

Dennis Oppenheim was known for his large body of work that spanned the Land Art, Body Art, and Conceptual Art movements, and then later, his “Machine Works". Oppenheim was constantly innovating and refused to allow himself to be pidgeonholed. The large-scale, often controversial public artworks that dominated the latter part of his career have helped to catapult him to a rock star status in the artworld. Photos of his pubic artwork below are, left to right, "Device to Root Out Evil" 1997, 20' H x 10' W x 12' D, Denver Art Museum and "Engagement", 30' H x 30' W x 30' L, 1997, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno.


In early January this year, a much beloved and very important public artwork at the Convention Center Sculpture Garden was vandalized. “Sojourner”, by Elizabeth Catlett, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 96, was knocked off of its base and broken into several pieces.  Staff has just confirmed that insurance will fund the repair and approval has been obtained to contract with a nationally known conservator to head up the restoration project.  A new indoor public location, yet to be identified, will be required for “Sojourner” once it is restored. The restoration project will include multiple consultants and contracts and a time table has not yet been established.

Elizabeth Catlett was commissioned by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission in 1998
for $67,500 to create a figurative public artwork for the Sculpture Garden. The 7’ high, Mexican Limestone sculpture of a woman with crossed arms, a flowing skirt and gazing upwards is a wonderful example of Catlett’s work which celebrates the heroic strength and endurance of African-American and Mexican working-class women. Critics have said that her simple, clean shapes evoke both the physical and spiritual essence of her subjects and this is clearly the case with “Sojourner”. In addition to drawing from her own experience as a young woman growing up during an era of widespread segregation and racism, her artwork, including “Sojourner”, was influenced by pre-Columbian sculpture and Diego Rivera political murals.

Historically, “Sojourner” is a reference to Sojourner Truth, the self-given name of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist born into slavery in New York. She escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826 and after going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

Elizabeth Catlett Mora (April 15, 1915 – April 2, 2012) was an American-born Mexican sculptor and printmaker whose remarkable career as an artist and activist was groundbreaking and significant. Art historian Melanie Herzog describes Catlett as “the foremost African American woman artist of her generation.” Her long career spanned several political and social movements including the Chicago Renaissance of the 1940s, the Black Power and Black Arts movements of the 1960s, the Mexican Public Art Movement, and feminism, all of which influenced her art. Perhaps Catlett’s most widely recognized print is “Sharecropper” 1952, printed in 1970, shown below on the left. In the 1960s and 1970s her posters of Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, and Malcolm X were widely distributed. In 1968 her life-sized redwood sculpture “Homage to My Young Back Sisters”, shown below, second image from the left, sold at auction in New York City for $288,000.

The third image from the left is “Woman Fixing Hair”, redwood, 1993, and the image on the far right is “Three Women of America”, serigraph, 1990.

Catlett earned a degree from Howard University in 1935 and was the first student to earn an MFA from the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa in 1940. Catlett also studied ceramics at the Chicago Art Institute in 1941 and lithography at the Art Students League of New York in 1942-1943. She was the first woman professor of sculpture at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. In addition to her numerous outdoor sculptures across the country, Catlett's work is represented in permanent collections including The Art Institute of Chicago; Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Smithsonian American Art Museum; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Library of Congress, and Howard University Art Collection in Washington D.C.; The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Fogg Museum, Harvard University Art, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City; Philadelphia Museum of Art and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Harford, Connecticut; and Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas; Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, and the National Institute of Fine Arts, Mexico City; and the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic

Catlett has received numerous awards including the Women’s Caucus for Art in 1981. In 2003 she was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from Sculpture Magazine and in 2008 she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. An Elizabeth Catlett Week was proclaimed in Berkeley, California, and in Cleveland Ohio they celebrate an annual Elizabeth Catlett Day.

Elizabeth Catlett Mora will be remembered for being a fascinating and pivotal intercultural figure more concerned with the social dimension of her art than its novelty or originality. She firmly believed that the visual arts can play a role in the construction of meaningful identity, and can be both transnational and ethnically grounded.



In 1977 Fred Ball was commissioned by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) through the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (SMAC) to create a mural for the facade of the Downtown Plaza West parking garage. One of the largest enamel murals in the world at the time, it took Fred Ball 3 years to complete the commission that consisted of 1,488 one-foot square, vitreous enamel plates, and he installed the mural in October of 1980.  Over the past 32 years, moisture and exposure to the extreme variation in Sacramento’s temperatures have taken a toll on the mural. It underwent a restoration in the 1990s, and in June 2012, it began its second restoration. The enamel plates were removed, cleaned, restored, and will be reinstalled after the backing and trim-work have been replaced. Completion is estimated for Fall 2013.

Fred Uhl Ball, renowned international artist, was considered to be one of the top artists in his field when he passed away in1985 at age 40. His mural, “The Way Home” has become a beloved Sacramento landmark and was one of the first public artworks to be commissioned by the City under the percent for art ordinance.  According to Shelly Willis, Art in Public Places Director for SMAC, “The artist’s reputation, the quality of the art, and the historic significance, all play a role in why it is so vital to restore this important mural.”

The highly acclaimed mural, located at 3rd and L Streets, faces I-5 and the Tower Bridge, and can be viewed from many of the nearby high-rise buildings.  Arranged in four horizontal sections, each 6-feet high, by 62-feet wide, the row after row of enameled plates create a quilt-like landscape of colors.  Ball intended his mural to be an interpretation of aerial views of the Sacramento River Delta, with winding river tributaries and cropland patterns combined with cityscapes.  The colors would reflect seasonal changes, and while retaining their basic color values, the enamels would reflect the environmental light, changing constantly with the passage of clouds, sun overhead, or the angle from which they were viewed. Fred Ball’s hope was that the mural’s images would remind viewers of the ongoing joy of life.

The Art in Public Places (APP) Program maintains a digital bank of images of artists' work to be used as a resource for public art commissions. If you would like to have your work considered for future projects, please download an APP ARTIST APPLICATION to complete and mail it to our office at 300 Richards Blvd, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95811. Applications will remain on file for 3 years. If you would like to update your artist information, please complete an APP ARTIST APPLICATION and just indicate you are updating your information.


Sacramento International Airport Big Build Public Art Program

Red Rabbit and Suitcase. Design for the Ticket Hall in the Sacramento International   Airport, by Lawrence Agent.

View images of the design, fabrication, and installation of these 12 works here. Download a PDF of descriptions of the art & artists' biographical information here. See an album of photos of the completed artworks here.

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Press about the Big Build: Link to Articles






Press release: Twelve soaring works of art take flight as the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission announces the arrival of art at the airport

The process for selecting artists and designing artworks for the Sacramento International Airport began when the airport art budget was established and an Art Plan for the project was approved by the County Board of Supervisors. But its parameters were set up more than three decades ago by a County Law that in a sense set up “the bones” for the Airport's artist selection and design approval process. The law recommends that 2% of County construction projects be spent on art. It also requires that this work be selected and approved in a public process.

The artwork for the airport was selected, reviewed, and influenced by more than 30 curators, art historians, and critics, in addition to county and airport staff, the airport’s principal architect, Corgan and Associates, and members of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. These individuals were divided up into groups or “panels” of between 7 - 13 members who then selected the art and made recommendations to the artists. They forwarded their recommendations to the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (who sometimes made further recommendations) and then, in some cases, were reviewed by the County Board of Supervisors. The entire process resulted in the approval of 12 artworks for the new terminal. Eleven of these artworks were fabricated and installed in conjunction with the Airport’s opening in October 2011. One artwork is in the final design and fabrication phase.