Massive Appeal

We have a lot of great public art in Sacramento, but we’re woefully short on the kinds of large-scale works that help create a sense of place. It’s time to think big.

The red hare at the Sacramento International Airport has become a symbol of the city.

The red hare at the Sacramento International Airport has become a symbol of the city.

Photo by Jeremy Sykes

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WWhen the Sacramento International Airport’s new billion-dollar terminal opened in late 2011, its cultural pièce de résistance was the 56-foot-long aluminum red hare that appears to leap into the building from the outside. Since then, the massive artwork has drawn national attention and even inspired the naming of a popular midtown restaurant. This gargantuan piece of public art has, in just over a year, become a bona fide star and an unlikely visual symbol for the city.

Of course, not everyone was thrilled about it.

Long before said hare sprang from the studio of its creator, Denver-based artist Lawrence Argent, one of the Sacramento County Supervisors expressed concern in a 2008 public hearing about the message the piece would send to the community and visitors to our fair city because of the species’, well, “proclivity for reproduction.” Was it, she appeared to wonder aloud, an indecent proposal?

Thanks to the efforts of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, clearer (and cleaner) heads prevailed, and Sacramento landed a prominent example of truly large-scale sculpture that has been a staple in other major cities for decades. It was, in fact, one giant leap for Sacramento.

But we still have a lot of catching up to do.

In some ways, Sacramento has been a pioneer when it comes to public art. In 1977, the city implemented a program stipulating that developers contribute two percent of a project’s total budget to public art. There are many such programs in cities around the country but Sacramento, along with a dozen or so other cities, has the highest such requirement in America. Bravo, us!