Public art always on display in Newport

“The Ambassador,” a sculpture by Sam Briseño, greets visitors to Don and Ann Davis Park in Newport’s Nye Beach District. This is one of the pieces of public art included in the Nye Beach Sculpture Trail brochure, which encourages people to take a close-up look at a variety of art. “Children on a Bench,” by artist Max Turner, is located on the sidewalk next to Literacy Park, which is just west of the Newport Public Library.

Museums and galleries may be shuttered or on reduced schedules in these days of COVID-19, but Newport residents and visitors can still take advantage of the city’s wealth of outdoor art. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to pick up the Nye Beach Sculpture Trail brochure, a project of the City of Newport Public Arts Committee, and take a walk.

Not only are the artworks on display 24/7, in all kinds of weather, they are ready for a close-up look as well.

The Nye Beach Sculpture Trail brochure highlights public art in such locations as Coast Park on West Olive Street, the Newport Public Library and Literacy Park behind it, the Newport Performing Arts Center, the Newport Visual Arts Center, the Vietnam Memorial and Don and Ann Davis Park. In addition, 15 concrete benches crafted by Lon Brusselback are placed throughout Nye Beach, and two mosaic benches by Marcus Lehrman sit by the visual arts center. The brochure was put together by Sandy Blackman and Frances VanWert.

Newport City Councilor Cynthia Jacobi, a watercolor and mixed media artist who is the council’s alternate liaison to the committee, said because of the accessibility of Newport’s outdoor art, she hopes the committee will pursue promoting the city as a destination for the impaired.

“One vital aspect of the Nye Beach sculpture trail is that all of the art but one (piece) are directly accessible to the public,” Jacobi said. This means anyone can actually walk up to it for a closer look.

She added that Quarry Cove at Yaquina Head, with its wheelchair-accessible tide pools, and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) viewpoint at the Nye Beach turnaround could be promoted along with the accessible art.

The Nye Beach Sculpture Trail guide is available at For ArtSake gallery and Jovi, both on Coast Street, or by contacting Newport City Recorder Peggy Hawker at 541-574-0613 or [email protected] and she will download the brochure. The brochure can also be downloaded from the city’s website at www.newportoregon.gov — go to city government, pull down to city committees and click on public arts committee, then click on “Sculptures brochure.”

Also available is the public arts committee’s first brochure, which features the Bayfront murals. It can be downloaded from the above address as well.

Jacobi said the Bayfront brochure featured the murals in existence about four years ago, documented by photographer Bill Posner.

But public art in a city facing the ocean does not necessarily mean permanent art. Several of the Bayfront murals are gone, victims of weather or a change in the building they adorned. 

“The brochure is both beautiful yet sad because so many of the murals have disappeared in four short years due to rotting wood and remodeling,” Jacobi said. “His photos illustrate what has been lost in Newport history. I loved all those Bayfront murals — they seemed so magical and fantastical. I saw they were going to need help.”

And some help arrived. Through its Bayfront murals restoration project, the public arts committee has paid for cleaning the murals and repainting a rotting mural on Hurbert Street en route to the Bayfront. It also paid for redoing the murals on the retaining wall by the Coast Guard station.

Murals grace other areas of Newport as well, including a double mural at the Nye Beach pump station and the city’s newest, which hangs on the south side of the library. The committee paid for artist Julie Lamberson’s supplies for a mural she painted on Hatfield Drive, and in other instances, the committee has split the cost with the property owner. That was the case for a retaining wall mural at the Summer Wind Budget Motel on U.S. Highway 101 across from Grocery Outlet, and for the mural going up in front of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! World of Adventure on the Bayfront. 

And while outdoor art flourishes in Newport, the city is also home to far more public art than the sculptures in Nye Beach and murals on the Bayfront. Once the pandemic allows city buildings to reopen on a full schedule, people will be welcome to go inside and view the artwork on display.

Gloria Tucker, deputy city recorder, has conducted an inventory of 220 pieces of city-owned art. She took photos of each piece and documented the artist, title, date received and location.

And the art keeps coming. Peggy Hawker, Newport city recorder and special projects director, serves as staff to the public arts committee and said the city recently received a donation from artist Juergen Eckstein’s widow — two paintings that are now hanging in the council chambers and a sculpture that has not yet been situated. 

Newport City Hall art also includes work by the late Rick Bartow and by his art printer from Japan. And former Mayor Sandy Roumagoux invited the committee to her studio to select two of her paintings for city hall — one now hangs in the city  council chambers and one at the south entry.

“We really are getting quite a collection,” Hawker said, adding that she hopes people will come in and view it when the building reopens.

Hawker said the city has an evaluation process for art donations and a Request for Unsolicited Art application. Over the years, the committee has developed procedures for acquisition, installation, maintenance and decommissioning for the city’s art, Jacobi added, noting that a 501(c)(3) foundation is being formed to fund public art.

During her tenure as executive director of Oregon Coast Council for the Arts (OCCA), Catherine Rickbone formed a group to explore public art in Newport. She now chairs the current committee.

“We started small; I invited the parks and recreation director, a city councilor and citizens, and we started looking around at other towns that had a public arts presence,” she recalled.

“Towns that emphasize public art help to drive visitors,” she noted. “We formulated a draft of policies and procedures for the city, and the group then became a city task force. The council adopted a resolution and the group moved to become a city committee. OCCA helped to give it birth, and it continues to grow. There’s so much potential to put Newport on the map for public art.”

Jacobi and Hawker both acknowledged that controversy follows public art, even if it’s quite traditional. “We’ve had comments on both sides,” Jacobi said, adding that some people consider art to be frivolous.

Meanwhile, the committee is always looking around for walls in need of murals, “and there are a lot of them,” Hawker said.

“I believe public art is for the public good,” Jacobi said. “Some people ask how we can afford it, and I ask, how can we not. It is democratic and open to all, and can provide pride in community and invigorate public spaces. And it can promote public conversation and connections, and create a sense of place.

“Public art can express what a community is about,” Jacobi concluded. 

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