By Rich Heimann
San Juan Capistrano keeps raising the bar. First, the new Inn at the Mission and the Verdugo Street improvements gave San Juan a completely new look and have attracted new visitors. The Capistrano Plaza has been renovated and now houses four upscale restaurants. A new mural, “Old San Juan,” striking and commanding our attention, is the first significant and visible artwork in the downtown area outside of Mission San Juan Capistrano.
The newly landscaped corners at the gateway to San Juan are another stunning improvement to the appearance of our beautiful city. The city council and staff are to be commended and thanked for the foresight in such visual capital improvements. They benefit all merchants and, of course, the city tax base.
We are fortunate that the gateway corners have not been populated with a service station or even more fast-food restaurants. They have remained free of development and available for the landscape improvements that were made. They are a unique entryway into the city and have begged for such improvement for many years.
The new landscaping complements the corner on the hotel property with imposing hardscape and rich greenscape offering a unified look to the corners. Hopefully we will see similar improvements on the Del Taco Corner in the near future, completing the landscape improvement of all four corners
However admirable these corners are now, they beg for more. Since its inception, The Alliance for San Juan Art (TASJA) and others have advocated for a large sculpture to be placed on each of these corners. We believe they should have scale similar to the “binding contract” located on the Almquist property along Del Obispo.
While the hotel corner, also called Stroscher Grove, hosts three historic tile panels depicting the early life of the Stroschein Family, there is available space to add sculpture(s). Sculptures of such scale on all four corners would present a bold statement when entering or departing San Juan Capistrano and leave no doubt that San Juan indeed continues to raise the bar. The results will be immeasurable in terms of benefits to residents, tourists, merchants, and our tax revenues.
The Alliance for San Juan Art advocates for Art in the Public Square in San Juan and has created new art projects including a new photo wrapped utility box on Camino Capistrano. We published an art map pinpointing the location of the (mostly hidden) art that is already in San Juan. TASJA has underwritten highly acclaimed short plays in Los Rios Park, performed by the Round About Players last summer, and is currently supporting murals in the early stages of creation in downtown locations. Funding for those projects was from the generous grants by the patrons and supporters of TASJA.
Funding for such future large-scale sculptures will be crucial. While funding through a percent for arts on new development would be a viable source of funds as nearby city neighbors do, TASJA is committed to seeking individual, corporate and government grants and donations for current projects as well as future large-scale artworks such as sculptures and murals. TASJA appreciates all donations that will contribute to San Juan Capistrano becoming the place where art abounds, and artists thrive.
Rich Heimann is the founder of The Alliance for San Juan Art.