John Libberton

John Libberton’s sail-shaped Bolinar in Sausalito commemorates Sausalito’s 1993 Centennial and celebrates the City’s Portuguese heritage.

Mill Valley’s Milley Awards on October 22 will be the first without the creator of the Milley bronze statuette, sculptor John Libberton, who passed away in 2022 at the age of 96. He will be fondly remembered.

In 1994, the Sausalito sculptor entered a competition for an artwork to present to honorees of the Milley Awards for Creative Achievement, a program sponsored by the Mill Valley Arts Commission and organized by a volunteer group of Mill Valley citizens to honor artists with histories in Mill Valley. Libberton’s sculpture of an abstract female figure was deemed perfect to adapt for the new award. 

For the next 31 years, John oversaw the casting of each new bronze Milley statuette with its distinctive patina of dark charcoal gray and each plaque with the honoree’s name and a logo he designed. And as if that weren’t enough, John hand-sewed presentation bags for the statuettes and carried them personally to each Milleys evening. He was a presence every year, occupying a place of honor in the program. 

Not long before his death, Libberton learned that the foundry in Monterey, where the statuettes were cast, was going out of business. He had them ship the molds to a foundry in Burbank and let the Milley Committee know he wished to hand over responsibility for the casting. Roy Forest, an accomplished sculptor, painter, and Milley Executive Committee member, volunteered, and during the next year they established a warm collegial relationship. “As a sculptor myself, I was familiar with John’s outstanding work for many years,” Roy says. “During the time we worked together he was helpful, kind and generous.” 

After Libberton’s death, it took awhile for the Burbank foundry to locate the statuette’s molds, but finally they were returned to Mill Valley. Roy located a foundry in Berkeley, where five statuettes are being cast now for October 22 event, which will honor musician Suzanne Ciani, visual artist Ute Goggins, community artist Tim Ryan, filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, and writer-editor Thomas Singer.

The in-person annual gala returns to the Mill Valley Community Center on Sunday, October 22 at 5pm to honor those who have distinguished themselves in their creative field, and/or who have contributed to the creative life of the Mill Valley community. Nominations were open for several months and honorees have been named. See honorees here.

While Libberton created the Milley Award for many years, perhaps his best known work locally is the sail-shaped Bolinar commemorating Sausalito’s 1993 Centennial and celebrates the City’s Portuguese heritage. The sail-shaped Bolinar is located in a triangular plaza at the intersection of Bridgeway, Caledonia and Napa Streets and commemorates Sausalito’s 1993 Centennial and the City’s Portuguese heritage. The word “bolinar” is Portuguese for “close to the wind.”



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