501 Poli Street
The art and culture of a centennial celebration
By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer 07/03/2013
This summer, the city will kick off a centennial celebration of one of Ventura’s most recognizable landmarks with an extravaganza of events focusing on local history and culture.
One major project planned is the creation of a time capsule to commemorate City Hall’s 100th birthday. Richard Newsham, marketing specialist for Ventura, has been collecting memorabilia to include in the airtight, 14-inch steel box. It will join two other time capsules already in residence at City Hall: the 1966 capsule, which commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the incorporation of San Buenaventura, and one created in 1976 for the U.S. bicentennial. Each of these time capsules will be opened 100 years from the time they were sealed. It is hoped that Ventura residents will get involved by adding their own mementos.
“We’re really hoping the community will donate to the time capsule,” says Georgeanne Lees, cultural affairs supervisor for Parks, Recreation and Community Partnerships and one of the key organizers of the centennial celebration. “This is their City Hall. We want them to be a part of this. People should look into their hearts and into their lives to find things that will be meaningful to include.”
Wedding photos, personal letters, announcements, current magazines and newspapers, clothing catalogs, CDs of popular music, stickers from political campaigns, even iPods or iPhones are all types of items Newsham and Lees would like to see go into the box for the citizens of 2113 to explore. But they are open to suggestions, too.
“It helps to think about what people will be interested in 100 years from now,” says Newsham. “They probably won’t care about city council meeting minutes, but what people were wearing, what their favorite restaurant was, how much it cost to live here.” Donations will be accepted through July 10.
Appropriately, the festivities begin on Independence Day. The Pushem-Pullem Parade and Street Fair are mainstays of every July 4 celebration in Ventura, which is expected to host more than 300 vendors and 50,000 people. This centennial year, City Hall will be open to these throngs, so that community members can participate in four separate tours and three exhibits designed for the occasion.
“People will have this amazing opportunity to walk into City Hall and explore the resources here,” explains Lees.
Additionally, a 12-minute documentary on the history of Ventura will be shown in the Santa Cruz Conference Room in City Hall West. The film, which features “some of the most stunning images captured on film,” was organized and narrated by former mayor and current City Councilwoman Christy Weir and directed by Gary Roll of CAPS TV.
Four informative tours held within City Hall will be offered throughout the day, starting at 11a.m. Historian and author Glenda Jackson will lead participants on a historical tour, which will include clothing, famous court cases and more. Art enthusiasts can join community partnerships manager Denise Sindelar for a look at the Municipal Art Collection, which includes works by such local luminaries as Beatrice Wood and John Nava. Architectural historian Cynthia Thompson will bring her knowledge and expertise to an exploration of City Hall’s beaux-arts architecture. And for those with a taste for the macabre, paranormal enthusiast Richard Senate will delve into the legend and lore of the ghosts rumored to haunt the building. Tours are free of charge, and attendees will receive a gift magnet commemorating the centennial.
The revelry continues on July 25 with a City Hall open house from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can see “City Hall at work,” explore the interpretive panels and other exhibits, and take part in the history, art, architecture and ghost tours. In addition, the city of Ventura Community Development Department will host a special historic preservation workshop focusing on the building’s terra cotta treasures. At 3 p.m., City Hall employees (and any members of the public who choose to join them) will gather in front of the building and stand in formation to create a giant “100” that will be photographed from above. At 4 p.m., the time capsule will be sealed and buried in the pavement by the front steps.
The final act in the centennial spectacular commences with the unveiling of a City Hall Centenary Sculpture. Early in 2013, the Public Art Commission called for proposals for a work of art to commemorate the centennial, with the request that the piece “have an historic twist and use original marble slab or white glazed terra cotta salvaged during the building’s 1974 restoration.” Conceptual artist and Cal State, Channel Islands, art professor Matthew Furmanski submitted the winning proposal, “Spolia” (Latin for “spoils,” which refers to the re-use of earlier building material on a new monument).
“Matthew Furmanski’s proposal to utilize historic terra cotta in the creation of the centenary sculpture fit the Public Art Commission’s criteria of showcasing City Hall’s rich architectural history as envisioned through a contemporary eye,” explains Sindelar, who was the staff liaison and facilitated the process.
The five-foot ensemble might best be described as a deconstructed Roman column, made from reclaimed terra cotta tiles and a stainless steel plate framework engraved with the Roman numerals for 1913 and 2013. In his proposal, Furmanski stated that “Pillars and columns have long been a symbol of strength and longevity,” making “Spolia” a fitting homage to the 100-year anniversary of one of Ventura’s most enduring symbols.
For a schedule of events and more information, visit cityofventura.net/cityhallcentennial. To donate to the City Hall Centennial Time Capsule, contact Richard Newsham at firstname.lastname@example.org.