Art installation brightens beach, informs visitors

Art-filled pole at Linda Mar Beach

Informative signs point the way to an art-filled pole at Linda Mar Beach. Anna Hoch-Kenney / Tribune

The efforts of a retired school teacher, 100 school children, and other local Pacifica artists and volunteers have come together after five years of planning, researching and painting. The results can be seen on three 8-foot-tall wooden poles covered in art and located at the different entrances to the Pacifica State Beach.

Sheila Gamble Dorn, Pacifica resident and retired third-grade teacher, partnered with Julie Stock, another local teacher and artist. Together they came up with the original idea of the Beach Poles. These poles would be covered in children’s art depicting local flora and fauna in an effort to teach beachgoers about the species living on the beach and surrounding creek.

“We care about the ocean. We want the students to care about the ocean,” Gamble said as she stood in front of one of the poles.

Each pole features a different wildlife group. One covers oceanic species that call Pacifica home, another focuses on creek wildlife, and a third covers the snowy plovers that lay their eggs in the sand on the state beach and are on the environmental watch list.

Gamble explained that the idea came after “a neighbor witnessed a young child throw a rock at a gull on the beach and break the gull’s wing,” she said. She wanted to bring awareness to environmental and wildlife conservation. She brought her ideas to Stock.

“I always was sketching. I always have my sketchbook because I just kind of think of the ideas visually, and I sketched it out and then (Dorn) listened. And then she brought them out to the Coastal Commission,” explained Stock.

With help from the Charles A. Becker Foundation Oceans 411 grant, the project could finally get underway.

After the approval was granted, Gamble reached

out to former students during the pandemic and nearly 100 kids came to her studio to pick up art kits and work on their signs. The children were able to choose what animal or plant they wanted to paint and also wrote facts about each on their wooden board. The poles were donated and the wood is almost 100 years old.

“When they put the poles in, the graffiti started,” Gamble said. She realized they had to get the children’s work up fast. Gamble pointed out that as soon as the children’s artwork went up, the graffiti immediately stopped.

The final steps of these informational art pieces included a custom mosaic at the bottom, done by local artist April Uhland and steel and ceramic statues designed by Stock.

“I took pictures of the surrounding area. And then I drew it out. I have a little mosaic studio and I used a lot of recycled tiles,” Uhland said.

“These art projects really help build a community,” Stock said. There is a separate sign with all the contributors’ names near the poles.

Although the poles and artwork were completed last year, these installations were recently completed with the addition of the statues. Gamble hopes to complete a fourth pole, and her team consistently checks on the students’ artwork for any damage.

The finished pieces are viewable at the Pacifica State Beach and visitors can take a short walk around the beach to view hundreds of student pieces.

View the original article: PacificaTribune