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To Delight of Visitors, Creative Critters On the Prowl — or Lounging Around — Waller Park
by Janene Scully
Special animal sculptures on display at Santa Maria Valley park thanks to joint project of Squire Foundation, Santa Barbara County.
Animal sculptures have invaded Santa Maria Valley’s Waller Park in the name of art.
The Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture is hosting an exhibit of animal figures near the duck pond at the county-owned park at 3107 Goodwin Road.
On a recent afternoon, park visitors paused to examine the sculptures — both close up and from afar — with some posing for pictures.
The county is delighted to see so many families gather at Waller Park to celebrate its long history as a community treasure as well as its current amenities, from the dog park to the duck pond and now, public art,” said Sarah York Rubin, executive director of the Arts & Culture Office.
The exhibit includes a ram sculpture painted by more than 100 children and adults from the area.
“The animal sculptures have been a huge success with the public and underscore the natural partnership between public parks and public art,” Rubin said.
The exhibit will be on display until June, she added.
Rubin said Bob Nelson, chief of staff to county Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam, noted during the exhibit opening that Waller Park was intentionally placed between the Santa Maria and Orcutt communities and “is uniquely able to serve residents from the entire valley.”
The temporary art exhibit harkens back to the park’s history as a home to a community zoo.
People who lived in Santa Maria decades ago often mention the park’s past — including “monkey island,” where the critters lived in the middle of one of the park’s ponds.
Today, a flock of ducks makes its home at the park along with squirrels and other animals.
Occasionally, a park visitor sparks excitement as occurred in November when bird watchers flocked to see a garganey, a duck deemed extremely rare in North America.
Waller Park also is popular among dogs and their owners for its dog park, where canines can frolic off-leash.
Pony rides are available on weekends for $3.50.
The animal sculptures created by the late Morris Squire, a Santa Barbara County artist, are on loan from the Squire Foundation, which is dedicated to civic and educational programs for artists, curators and other creative people.
The county Office of Arts & Culture is a division of the Community Services Department.
Each of the eight pieces offers a unique or interactive element, and many are centered on celebrating Santa Barbara’s local culture, spirit and resilience, representatives said.
For instance, “California Love Locks” by Patrick Melroy offers passersby a chance to add a lock to a chain-linked sculpture shaped like the state, symbolizing their place on the map.
Click here for more information about the Office of Arts & Culture.