New Nighthawk Sculpture Soars in South Natomas

Image of Nighthawk sculpture in front of firestation.

The nighthawk symbolizes the community of Natomas and the fire station as a protecting presence in the area. / Photo NatomasBuzz.com

BY BRANDY TUZON BOYD
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Artist Michael Stutz was commissioned to create the sculpture in 2018. / Photo NatomasBuzz.com

A new sculpture has soared into South Natomas where it will roost permanently in front of Fire Station No. 15.

“Nighthawk Moving Over the Water” is the city’s newest public art installation which brings together the vision of artist Michael Stutz and his time spent with firefighters at the station and meetings with neighborhood residents.

“This community is extraordinary,” said Stutz, a San Diego-based artist commissioned in 2018 to create the public art piece as part of the city’s long standing Art in Public Places program.

The program, created in 1977, is meant to increase public exposure to the visual arts by installing commissioned artwork in public spaces. The art is paid for by way of a city ordinance which sets aside 2% of the budget for capital improvement projects — such as building, expanding or replacing city facilities — to be spent on public art.

Fire Station No. 15 opened at 1640 West El Camino Avenue in January 2019. It replaced an older, smaller station located off Truxel Road and Newborough Drive.

After Stutz was selected, he met and rode along with firefighters at Fire Station No. 15. He also met with Vice Mayor Jeff Harris, who represents South Natomas on the Sacramento City Council, and members of the community.

“He listened to what the community talked about, he listened to the fire department and he went back to his studio,” said Donald Gensler, project manager for Art in Public Places.

The result: a 16-foot tall freestanding stainless steel sculpture and bronze tableau of a nighthawk installed in front of the station on July 14.

The nighthawk sculpture is one of a kind. / Photo NatomasBuzz.com

The multi-layered sculpture is made of sheared and water jet cut strips of #655 alloy silicon bronze. The strips were put together one by one creating an illusion of animation with light and shadow when passing by.

“There will never be another bird just like this one,” said Stutz, who explained he chose the nighthawk because it is a symbol of the South Natomas community.

The firefighters at Fire Station No. 15 call themselves the “Nighthawks,” he said. And, he learned, the mascot for nearby Natomas High School is also the Nighthawk.

“The nighthawk is a California bird, not a raptor, more like a sparrow, found around here,” Stutz said. “It represents something that is part of the natural environment which is something the people of Natomas talked about during community meetings. It seemed like a symbol that could bridge the gap between the two.”

The nighthawk sits atop two curved stainless steel poles which represent the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers, he explained. A green accent represents nature and the Natomas community’s agricultural past, he said.

The sculpture is anchored to a concrete base which was mounted in front, just east of the station’s bay doors. It was placed as close to the street as possible to connect Fire Station No. 15 to the community it serves.

“I think we found a nice balance for community stakeholders, the firefighters living here (at the station) and Michael as an artist,” said Gensler.

Installation of the sculpture was delayed about five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the public health order a dedication event has not been scheduled. Gensler said he hopes to hold an online talk featuring Stutz in the future.

A virtual dedication and artist talk by Michael Stutz is set for 6 p.m.-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23. To register for Zoom link to this event go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nighthawk-over-the-waters-dedication-event-tickets-121056769055.

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