Mill Valley Mayor Jim Wickham, at front center, artist Chuck Oakander, at front left, City Manager Jim McCann, front right, Mill Valley Arts & Recreation Director Jenny Rogers, back center and reprresentatives of the Outdoor Art Club, Mill Valley Arts Commission and Mill Valley Chamber all gathered in Old Mill Park on Sept. 10 to dedicate Oakander’s Big Wave Bench as part of the City’s public art program. Photos by Ted Tuescher.

PictureArtist Chuck Oakander and Mayor Jim Wickham. Photo by Ted Tuescher.

From the gorgeous new ArtBoxes – an octet of artist-decorated utility box wraps to brighten up the streets and deter vandalism – to the array of eclectic public benches popping up all over town, public art is surging in Mill Valley right now. 

Representatives from the City of Mill Valley, Mill Valley Recreation, Mill Valley Chamber, Outdoor Art Club and Mill Valley Arts Commission gathered in Old Mill Park this week to celebrate and dedicate Big Wave Bench, the creation of longtime of Bolinas artist and arborist-turned sculptor Chuck Oakander, who has a passion for making functional, fun benches and sculptures from tree trunks. 

The arrival of Big Wave Bench earlier this year came courtesy a successful grant proposal from the Mill Valley Chamber‘s Enjoy Mill Valley Fund to the Outdoor Art Club. Oakander’s bench is located just opposite the Old Mill and close to Cascade Drive. At the event, Mayor Jim Wickham unveiled a new plaque dedicated to the Outdoor Art Club for funding the bench.

Not long after Oakander’s bench went into Old Mill Park in early 2018, city workers installed acclaimed Bay Area artist Colin Selig‘s Asymmetric Art Bench at the corner of Miller and Evergreen Avenues – just across from Whole Foods Miller, on property owned by Mill Valley Refuse principal Jim Iavarone. Iavarone, the Chamber and Whole Foods supported this effort.

With the help of contributions from the Outdoor Art Club and an array of generous donors, the EMV Fund has helped repair the Downtown Clock Tower, supported the restoration of the replica Gravity Car, made the free Movies in the Park series sustainable and bigger and better than ever and spearheaded a number of plantings and beautification efforts around town.

In July, another gorgeous redwood bench was installed just outside City Hall, courtesy a donation by Jed Bullard, whose father and grandfather stood guard in 1957 to “save the downtown clock” in downtown Mill Valley, heard that the clock had been restored in 2017 via the Outdoor Art Club‘s $11,000 grant to the Mill Valley Chamber‘s Enjoy Mill Valley Fund and was so overjoyed that he and his wife Sherri contributed $5,000. Coupled with a matching donation from a number of local residents that will help add additional landscaping around the bench over time, the bench, made by former longtime city parks supervisor Rick Misuraca, will be around for years to come.

The Chamber established the Enjoy Mill Valley Fund in July 2016 with the cooperation of the Marin Community Foundation to work with local and county agencies and organizations to identify deserving, “shovel ready” local beautification and infrastructure projects that just need a little funding boost to get to the finish line. All donations to the Enjoy Mill Valley Fund are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Mill Valley Recreation’s Public Art Program, Art in Public Places, includes five program elements – much more is on the way.


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