Working on this story about the Robert Irwin pieces planned for the new federal courthouse got me thinking. We’ve had an interesting year of public art discussions. What’s happening with them now?

Here’s an update on some notable pieces:

“Unconditional Surrender” aka the kiss statue on the waterfront: A 25-foot version of the iconic sailor-kissing-a-nurse image that was on the waterfront was always meant to be temporary. It came down this spring. But this year, port officials voted to accept a permanent version even though its art advisory panel voted against it, sparking a few members to resign and write a scathing letter about the agency’s decision.

Now the USS Midway Museum has raised more than $1 million to fabricate the new, permanent version that will be installed with landscaping, lighting and benches. The museum anticipates installing it next to its ship downtown this fall.

The “Wings of Freedom” on the waterfront: A team of local architects, leaders from the USS Midway Museum and civic promoter Malin Burnham unveiled a plan last fall for a redone Navy Pier next to the decommissioned aircraft carrier. That plan could include an amphitheater framed by 500-foot titanium sails, called the “Wings of Freedom.” They would be an iconic landmark for San Diego, they said.

The wings caused quite a flap.

In February, the Unified Port of San Diego submitted the Midway’s plan for the pier along with several waterfront projects for a review of their impacts.

The Midway team couldn’t get enough support from port officials to recommend the whole scope of its plan, but the environmental review will examine the parking structure, wings and amphitheater as options for the pier.

The review is due out this fall, when the public will have a chance to weigh in.

The central library downtown: Four art projects were selected a decade ago for the new library that is slated to open in July 2013. The pieces included a wall covered in open books, a series of chairs, glass and mosaic sculptures and an animated screensaver for the library’s public computers. I wrote more about those pieces in this story last year. The library is finally under construction. Now the city is going back to the artists — who, remember, came up with these ideas a decade ago — to sign them to contracts to actualize their designs.

The library is supposed to be finished in 2013. So far, all of the artists are on board to make their pieces.

I thought local sculptor Jeffrey Laudenslager summarized the challenge to the artists in that scenario well in my story last year:

“When there’s a very, very long shadow between the inception, the creative spark and the realization of that idea, it’s very daunting to keep your energy at a high-pitch level and deliver what you planned,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s the difficulty. Working with some of these municipalities, it’s antithesis to art.”

The San Ysidro Land Port of Entry: The same federal program giving the courthouse its Robert Irwin pieces is responsible for artwork that will be installed somewhere in the project for the new border crossing.

A spokeswoman for the General Services Administration said the agency has chosen two artists but won’t have final details until November about what they will make. One artist is Norie Sato, a Seattle-based sculptor who’s worked on artwork for several big-city light-rail systems. The other is Meejin Yoo, an architect and designer on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Other city projects:

Architect Kevin deFreitas and artist Shinpei Takeda worked together on a new bathroom — what the city calls a “Comfort Station” for Ocean Beach, which will be unveiled in a grand opening on Monday at 11 a.m.

Takeda, who’s Japanese and currently lives in Tijuana, is known for infusing history and storytelling in his pieces. For this bathroom, he made a laminated vinyl piece and installed in on the ceiling of the bathroom.

The whole thing is OB-infused: There are images drawn from a the old Wonderland Amusement Park of a century ago, overlaid with text from the OB Rag and some quotations from the famous authors OB’s streets are named after, like James Froude and Voltaire.

Takeda also just completed a huge mural in City Heights with students from the nonprofit he cofounded, the AjA Project, for teaching photography to displaced and refugee teenagers. That mural was privately funded.

Meanwhile, Mary Lynn Dominguez, a mosaic artist, made new pieces for the lifeguard tower that is under construction in La Jolla. She also just made a large mosaic on the freeway entrance to Interstate 5 at Lomas Santa Fe.

The OB and La Jolla projects were already underway when the mayor proposed a temporary suspension of the city policy for including art in public projects in 2010. That suspension is supposed to be lifted on June 30. It’s unclear what will happen to other projects like art for fire stations in Hillcrest and Mid-City that were in limbo.

I’m Kelly Bennett, arts editor for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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