May 10, 2022

By Gretchen Zimmerman, Staff Writer

At tonight’s Peralta Community College District governing board meeting, trustees will vote on approving an Independent Consultant Agreement for Special Services with Slate Art Consulting, for Design and Installation of a Centerpiece Mural in the New Center for Liberal Arts Building at the College of Alameda.

Agenda item 8.1 states that the $69,430.00 project is well within the designated budget for the building, originally projected to be $42.1 million dollars. The nearly 54,000 square foot Center for Liberal Arts was funded by Measures A and G, and was completed in December of 2020.

College of Alameda’s new Center of Liberal Arts building. Source: Peralta Gems website.

According to the agenda item, the mural is intended as an artistic centerpiece in the lobby of the flagship building to showcase the College of Alameda’s commitment to diversity, equity, innovation, and inclusion in support of higher learning access for all” and was “within the designated budget.”

A committee of College of Alameda and District staff members selected one of three finalists, Slate Art Consulting and lead artist Martin Webb, to design and execute the mural. According to PCCD’s Request for Proposals (RFP) website, the process for Solicitation Number: RFP 20-21/13 began last year. 

According to his website, Webb, who is originally from the UK, has lived in Oakland for the past 20 years, and his focus has been on large scale projects since 2008. Webb describes his work in his personal blog as pondering life’s transitions, and features images of boats, houses, and travelers, reflecting on life’s journeys, arrivals, and moorings.”

Martin Webb in an art studio. Source: Slate Art Consulting by artist Martin Webb’s proposal.

The bid proposal states that Webb earned a bachelor’s  in visual arts from Lancaster University, a Postgraduate Certificate from Bretton Hall College, and came to the US on a Fulbright exchange in 2000.

Proposed origami boats that will be part of the mural. Source: Slate Art Consulting by artist Martin Webb’s proposal.

According to the proposal, the mural will cover roughly 1000 square feet adjacent to a lobby staircase. Webb’s statement in the proposal says he sought to consider the vision of the college and reflect a “diverse, supportive, empowering learning community for seekers of knowledge.”The painted mural will feature origami boats made of archival prints, which will be pasted to the wall with archival paste. The proposal says that the text will be in a “multitude of different languages, reflecting the diversity of the student body.” The boats will float among “semi abstract images of islands and a city,” in which they “appear to be finding their different courses to the destinations of their choosing – a metaphor for the empowered students’ futures.”

Photoshop rendering of the mural at CoA’s Center of Liberal Arts Building. Source: Slate Art Consulting by artist Martin Webb’s proposal.

The proposal lists challenges that add to the project cost, such as the requirement of erecting scaffolding to access the area over the stairs, and a tight timeline that will require hiring assistants.

Previous scaffolding at the Center of Liberal Arts Building, possibly similar to the one that will be needed for the development of the mural. Source: Build Peralta website.

The proposal includes a two-year warranty, though the mural is expected to remain in good condition for at least 10 years. The artist designed the bottom 6’ of the stairway to be a solid color so that it can be easily touched up. A gallon of matching paint will be provided, as that area is expected to be susceptible to wear and tear from passers by.

Tom Arie Donch of Community Built Association has been involved with hundreds of public art projects over the past 30 years. He says $69k is a “healthy budget,” but the cost does not sound unreasonable, given the scale and logistics of the project, adding that it is  important to retain someone with adequate experience to create a mural appropriate for the space, “The biggest mistake inexperienced people make with murals is to think you’re just blowing up a painting,” Arie Donch said.

The runners up for the bid were Alexandra Bowman, also affiliated with Slate Art Consulting, and Adrian Susnea Litman. Bowman is an Oakland-based designer, muralist and illustrator, her Linked-In profile says that she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. According to his website, Adrian Susnea Litman studied art in Romania and relocated to California in 1980. He retired from the corporate world in 2002 to launch his own design studio, and now creates “an eclectic body of commissioned art pieces for Civic Public Art, Corporate and private clients.” The bids from both of these artists were in the same ballpark as Webb’s bid.

The Peralta Community College Board of Trustees meets tonight, May 10 at 6:00 PM, and will be voting on approving or not the new mural. The meeting will be viewable in the Peralta YouTube channel.