Special sculpture to remain in Del Mar, thanks to Garden Club


By Kelley Carlson

The “Flock of Sea Birds” sculpture outside Del Mar City Hall has found a permanent nesting place.

In March, members of the Del Mar Garden Club voted to buy the artwork, which had been leased since its installation two years ago.

“We worked hard to raise the money,” said President Carol Vernon, whose nonprofit organization often holds fundraisers and receives monetary donations for its beautification projects around the Village.

The group, which is composed of 45 active members, has worked on the walkway next to the Gold Center; the sidewalk garden plots at the 14th Street and Camino del Mar crosswalk area by Bully’s; the garden at the library; and Crest Canyon Park, which consists of California native plants.

“We have such an amazing group of ladies,” Vernon said. “We try to tweak and fine-tune every nick and corner (of the community).”

The City Hall project first began two and-a-half years ago when the Del Mar Garden Club presented a plan to the City Council to relandscape the property along Camino del Mar and put an art sculpture in place.

The original proposal called for rotation of the artwork, Vernon said.

With assistance from the Public Works Department and a grant from the Del Mar Foundation, the area — which was overgrown and neglected for a number of years — was re-landscaped with new plantings; boulders; and large, color-coordinated flower pots. Benches that were built by John Coughlin were also added to the site.

When a committee began to search for the ideal piece of art, many choices were presented, Vernon said. Among the resources were the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, and various people in the art world.

“We tried to choose something successful that had been displayed in another area,” Vernon said — one that was known to be well-accepted by a community.

Ultimately, the group found what it was looking for through the Urban Tree Project at the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego.

The half-mile-long exhibit temporarily displays works created by different artists that lend a creative touch along Harbor Drive. The art is rotated, and is available for purchase at the end of each exhibition period.

The sculpture selected for City Hall was the 13-foot-tall “Flock of Sea Birds” by Frank Mando, which features sea gulls sculpted from curved aluminum that seem to take flight in the ocean breeze. A spring and sleeve system allows the birds to move in unison with the wind, according to the Port of San Diego Web site.

“This one seemed appropriate for the area,” Vernon said, citing the property’s close proximity to the beach.

The piece was installed once the landscaping was finished.

These days, members of the garden club trim the garden monthly and maintain it with the help of public works.

“It’s been a work in progress,” Vernon said.

“We’ve had such a positive response,” she added. “We feel good we were able to purchase (the sculpture) and give it to the community.”