Online map showcases public art in Carlsbad

Online map showcases public art in Carlsbad
A sculpture featuring Carlsbad golfers, a popular piece of public art that can be easily located courtesy of a new interactive public art map. Photo courtesy of Sam Wells

CARLSBAD — The growing popularity of public art proves that not all great works are housed in a gallery or museum. One problem: Public art is often hidden or can be difficult to locate. But perusing artwork in Carlsbad just became that much easier thanks to the launch of an interactive map of public art.

The web-based image gallery details the city’s entire public art collection, 29 pieces total, with directions from any location, links to artists’ websites and a brief history of all the artwork.

Staff from the city’s Cultural Arts Office started working on the project in 2009.

“We were looking at ways to promote great works that can be found within our city,” said Peter Gordon the city’s cultural art manager. “We discussed print brochures initially. Then the conversation became: Why not make the art more interactive, more accessible?”

Carlsbad, Gordon said, has something of a tradition when it comes to community art.

The city’s Art in Public Places program, which began in 1985, was the first public art program established in San Diego County. Because of the program, 1 percent of all municipal construction projects have to be spent on public art.

She had yet to give it a spin, but artist T.J. Dixon applauded the spirit behind the interactive map.

“It seems great because a lot of art can be tucked away,” Dixon said. “Finding all the pieces can be a scatter hunt.”

Along with James Nelson, Dixon created the “Carlsbad golfers,” one of the more popular pieces of public art in the city. As Dixon explained it, the bronze sculpture at the Carlsbad Municipal Golf Course was a conscious effort to “avoid a perfect Arnold Palmer-like sculpture and represent a fun family moment.”

“It’s awesome that people can easily see the piece and learn a little bit about it,” Dixon said.

Paul Hobson, who is perhaps best known in Carlsbad for constructing the bold, black gate made of stainless steel cable at the entryway of the Leo Carrillo Ranch, also liked the idea of the interactive map.

The entryway to the Leo Carrillo Ranch, one of 29 pieces of public art in Carlsbad. Photo courtesy of Sam Wells

“I think it will be a great resource not just for the public, but also other artists wanting to check out art,” Hobson said.

Featuring a flowing pattern that forms film canisters and a wagon wheel, the gate is a tribute to actor Leo Carrillo, who lived at the ranch.

Each piece of artwork has a unique story behind it, said Tonya Rodzach, the city’s arts education coordinator.

With more than two decades of public artwork in Carlsbad, the pieces span a wide range of materials and genres.

“There’s abstract, representational — a little bit of everything for people to enjoy,” she said.

The map will encourage local residents to explore their own backyard. It may also inspire those from other parts of San Diego, and maybe even out-of-towners, to pay a visit to Carlsbad, Rodzach hopes.

The Carlsbad Cultural Arts Office teamed up with the city’s Geographic Information Systems division to put together the interactive map, which involved overlaying GIS data and icons of the public artwork over base maps.

Rodzach said Carlsbad is the first city government in San Diego County to develop an in-depth online map of public art, calling the project a “big undertaking.”

With the map, Carlsbad joins a trend of cities across the nation that have created a searchable database of public artwork.

According to Rodzach, Carlsbad’s map has features that others might not; for example, users can search by the artist’s name, the title of the work or the artistic medium it was created in.

The public art map cost $3,000, which includes funding for future art and construction maps that the city is developing, according to Karl von Schlieder, the city’s GIS manager.

The interactive art map can be found at


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