Streetscape arts plans still forming

Wendell Robie statue an early thought
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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A statue of Wendell Robie in Downtown Auburn? Longtime Auburn resident and Tevis Cup competitor Potato Richardson said the thought has been floated by world-renowned artist Douglas Van Howd but nothing has been finalized, approved and no model has yet been built. “I’ve talked to Doug Van Howd at length about this,” Richardson said this week. Richardson said he and the famous artist, whose gallery is located in Auburn, think that possibly a photo of Robie riding horseback could be a good first model for a bronze statue. Richardson said he had thoughts of putting the statue, if it’s constructed, in front of the Community First Bank building because it was a building Robie once owned. Robie is a well-known Auburn figure who founded the Western States 100-mile trial ride. However, Streetscape committee and arts commission members as well as city officials have declined to comment on specifics about any arts plans for the Downtown area as it undergoes an extensive renovation. VanHowd, reached by phone Thursday, also declined to comment about the proposed statue at this time. Van Howd’s sculptures, however, have wide appeal. His work has been presented to international leaders and was part of the décor of White House rooms. City Councilman Keith Nesbitt, who also sits on Streetscape History and Arts Advisory Committee, said no formal request has been made for a Wendell Robie statue. “I heard they’re talking about possibly putting a Wendell Robie statue by Community First Bank and the chamber but in the end that will go through the arts commission,” Nesbitt said. Nesbitt added that “things are going back and forth on this with an alternate location” but “I don’t see that being a part of central square.” However, he added that any final decision would be left to the city council and not the committee. Marti Niles, who sits on the Auburn Arts Commission and is its liaison to the Streetscape committee said “various artists have been approaching us.” Niles declined to say who has approached the commission and deferred comment to chairwoman Sue Dings. Dings did not return a call for comment Friday. The recently renovated central square currently has the art pedestals that can hold statues or other forms of artwork. Cynthia Haynes, a Streetscape committee member, said the group would like residents to submit information about notable people, places and events in Auburn. A form, available on the city of Auburn’s Web site, allows residents to write who or what they think are significant pieces of the town’s history. Haynes said the committee will then review the responses and compile a list of what the public would like to see. “We want public input on what they would like to see highlighted,” Haynes said. Niles added that the new square is great place for art. “There’s so much area for story telling,” Niles said. On March 8, the council is expected to hear the proposed themes for the Streetscape area, Niles said. Those themes include the Gold Rush, the confluence, and endurance, according to Nesbitt. At Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Nesbitt said his goal is for the new gathering place to appeal to many. “There will be something for everybody,” Nesbitt said. Jenifer Gee can be reached at ------------ Who do you think belongs in Central Square? Share your thoughts about a notable person, place or event in Auburn's history with the Streetscape committee. Send the reason why you think the person, place or event was important in 50 words or less to or drop off the form, available at Auburn city's Web site at City Hall. Deadline is noon March 11. Call Cynthia Haynes at (530) 889-5133 for more information.