Aside from being two of the kindest philanthropists we know, Bob and Carmen Smith are avid art fans and collectors who have and continue to be dedicated to elevating culture in Newport Beach. They appreciate how art is everywhere, and how it has the power to affect people in profound ways often inspiring more creativity.
Bob resonates with a quote by Karl Kraus, from Dicta and Contradicta: “Art serves to rinse out our eyes.” To which he added: “Having art and culture in a city enriches all of us, giving us fresh perspectives on our world.”
Like her former art commissioner husband, Carmen is a community leader who currently serves as secretary on the board of directors for the Newport Beach Arts Foundation, which was formed in 1998. As the Arts Commission develops new programs – be it art, sculpture, dance, or song – the Arts Foundation works as a fundraising arm to provide resources for those programs.
Over the years, many ideas have become reality helping to showcase Newport Beach as a destination for art and culture. One such idea is the sculpture garden, Newport Beach’s unique and safe outdoor museum, which lies on the 14-acre park adjacent to City Hall. In additional to rotating sculptures, each visiting for two years, the everchanging natural backdrop allows viewers to experience different perspectives of light and shadow as form meets nature.
Bob welcomed the community for the grand opening in September 2014, however, the concept and planning began years prior. Bob, as art commissioner and chair of the Sculpture Exhibition Committee, shared: “When the Civic Center was built, Peter Walker (the landscape architect) had developed a master plan for sculpture in the park which called out for about 40 different locations where you could put sculpture.” The first year’s 260 submissions were narrowed down to 10 by an expert art panel jury who examined the art to ensure outdoor durability as well as suitability to the audience.
With differences in medium, aesthetic and background, the garden creates community conversation while representing diversity and inclusion. All artists from any location are welcome to submit their works. As a true public art installment, all citizens are welcome to vote on submissions for consideration. We are currently in the fifth phase with 10 new sculptures to be showcased from May this year through June 2022.
The Smiths see the sculpture garden as a meeting place, a venue for learning, and possibly a site for art and music education. Carmen agrees with Arts Commissioner Arlene Greer, who said, “The sculpture in the Civic Center Park is a type of museum without walls. Sculpture needs to be seen both up close and from a distance to get the full impact. So often, when it is locked up in a room in a regular museum, you can’t get a full perspective. The sculpture exhibit is a place where families – and even their pets – can come morning, noon and night to examine the art without feeling they need an advanced degree in art to appreciate it. It’s a nice balance for those of us who (while we love the ocean and Newport Beach) don’t like to spend time in or on the water. And it brings new people to Newport.”
Newport Beach looks forward to welcoming back Art in the Park. This fun family event showcases artists and artisans who display for sale their art or craft. The Newport Beach Arts Foundation (NBAF) invites all members of the community to increase arts and culture in Newport Beach. There are myriad opportunities to expand efforts with more presentations for music, dance, poetry as well as the visual arts. All promote inclusion, diversity, equity and access, so that Newport Beach continues to be a rich destination for tourists and Orange County. All are invited to get involved as volunteers, board members, advisers, members or donors.