By Diane Y. Welch
New public art has recently popped up in Solana Beach. It brightens the streetscapes and enriches the experience of visitors to the coastal community, said Carol Beth Rodriguez, membership chair for the Solana Beach Art Association and a member of the City of Solana Beach’s Public Arts Advisory Commission (PAAC), which oversees the community’s art programs.
At the corner of North Cedros Avenue and Cliff Street stands Christie Bensiton’s “Topiary.” An eye-catching addition to the street corner where commercial zoning meets residential zoning, Beniston’s sculpture is composed of brilliantly colored rings formed from architectural clay and PVC stacked to the height of about 9 feet.
“Topiaries represent man’s intervention in nature, as without man’s hand such shapes could not exist,” said Beniston about her piece. “My colorful topiaries and their placement in an urban setting symbolize the human drive to influence nature in what are sometimes inhospitable environments.”
Her sculpture was originally selected for the El Paseo Invitational Exhibition in Palm Desert, but will remain in its current location for up to two years. Other pieces by Beniston, a widely-exhibited public artist, include several mosaic pieces permanently displayed at Solana Beach’s library and local schools.
Pat Cranor’s “A Tree for All Seasons,” stands at the corner of Highland Drive and Sun Valley Road. Cranor originally designed his sculpture for the San Diego Port Authority’s “Urban Trees” project. His piece is 12 feet high and represents a tree’s seasonal changes through colorful leaf pattern repeats painted onto square wooden tiles fixed to a four-sided column.
In concert with the recent award-winning Arts Alive on the Coastal Rail Trail event, two local teens were commissioned to transform a faded utility box, and each had a unique interpretation to the city’s mask design prompt.
“I looked to the organic cyclicality of nature, hinting at a Native American ideology,” said Juliana Welch, a Canyon Crest Academy senior, and a student in the school’s fine art conservatory program. Her grouping of five different wild animals, each wearing the same skull mask, symbolizes the unity of nature’s elemental force. Human hand and foot prints and green turtle necks were added to the design for whimsy and fun.
Isa Beniston painted the opposing side of the utility box, which is located on the east side of South Coast Highway 101, in close proximity to Amber Irwin’s glass sunburst sculpture, just south of the Rosa Street bridge, and north of Betsy Schulz’s rail trail mosaic arches.
“My design was inspired by Mexican folk art masks and I pulled different elements from them to create mine,” said Isa about her vibrant, playful designs. Isa is a sophomore at UCLA, studying fine art with a minor in visual and performing arts education, and is a CCA graduate and former fine arts conservatory student.
In addition to the placement of temporary and permanent public art pieces, PAAC also oversees the annual Arts Alive banner program, and an ongoing display of artists at the City Hall Gallery. These six-week long exhibits are varied and include works by sculptors, painters, photographers, and architects, and include other mediums of creative and cultural expression.
Looking ahead, the South Coast Highway 101 revitalization project, slated to begin in spring of 2012, has designated specific areas as potential venues for public art. Beautifying open spaces with art enhances the environment and provides a cultural awareness for those visiting, said Rodriguez. “I am personally delighted to see public art in our city, it is a treasure of artistic creativity.”
To find out more about the City Of Solana Beach’s public art programs, visit
To find out more about the Solana Beach Art Association visit