OCEANSIDE — Buena Vista Audubon Society’s Nature Center staff has been holding the identity of sculptor “Dr. Duck” in confidence for decades. Come Aug. 5, the name and story of the local artist who installed surprise metal sculptures around the Nature Center for years will be shared with the public.
The Nature Center was built in 1987 and opened in 1988. At that time, it was the first center in the county to inform visitors about local wildlife and habitat.
Annette Schneider, center manager, said all funds were spent on building the center, and there was little more than word-of-mouth to get news out that the Nature Center was open.
About a year after opening, metal sculptures, most depicting birds, began to pop up around the center. Schneider said they were fully installed, and many have remained exactly where they were first placed.
Schneider has worked as the manager of the center since it opened, and was often the first to see a new sculpture.
She said sometimes they were in less noticeable locations, like on the roof, and it took staff and volunteers a while to locate them.
Each time a sculpture was installed, a note would announce “Dr. Duck was here.” The message was sometimes written on paper; other times it was marked on the sidewalk near the new piece.
“There were rumors, but we never knew who he was,” Schneider said.
It was such a curious artist expression that newspapers would cover the story, and the public spotlight would shine on the Nature Center.
Kelly Deveney, a Nature Center volunteer, said she has heard of the legend and seen the artwork.
“No one had ever objected, they’re all still there, left where he left them except a couple on roof,” Deveney said.
Schneider said after some time a center volunteer said she knew who the artist was, but would not reveal the identity. Schneider added her guess is that some of the early board members also knew, but did not want to spoil the curious mystery or good publicity the anonymous artwork brought the center.
Schneider found out herself one morning by accident. The artist was up on the roof of the Nature Center installing a piece and she happened upon him. Schneider has also kept the identity confidential through the years.
“It brought a little piece of magic to the center,” Schneider said.
On Aug. 5 the Nature Center will celebrate the artist and the 25 sculptures he made and installed. A walking tour and explanation of the artwork will be part of the opening reception on Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Focused activities and tours of the art will continue through Aug. 21, including a children’s art day on Aug. 6 at 1 p.m.
Buena Vista Nature Center is located at 2202 South Coast Highway. Its hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.