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Deer Creek Village welcomes whale tail art, dog park

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Anchored by Friedman’s Home Improvement, the Deer Creek Village shopping center has continued to unveil new businesses and additional aesthetic features since the opening of the center’s flagship store in May. Community minded features like a fenced dog park and a 15-foot-tall whale tail art installation have been added more recently.

Nestled beside the large aquatic sculpture is Togo’s Sandwiches, which celebrated its own grand opening on Wednesday. Greg Geertsen, managing director of Merlone Geier, which developed the center, said the neighboring Mary’s Pizza Shack is also on schedule to open in about two months.

But before setting foot in the new sandwich shop, it’s impossible to ignore the whale in the room — or rather, on the sidewalk. The life-size whale tail, created by Sacramento artist Terrence Martin, seemingly dives into a sea of concrete. Martin was inspired to build the sculpture — made almost entirely of scrap metal — after a whale-watching trip.

The sculpture, titled “A Whale of a Good Time,” also seats nine people inside, and is surrounded by blue lighting to make it glows at night. It’s the first in a series of art installations that Merlone Geier has agreed to implement throughout the shopping center. In Petaluma, developers may either choose to spend 1 percent of their total project cost building a piece of public art, or pay that fee into the Public Art Fund. The city’s Public Art Committee then uses those funds to finance public art, such as the sculpture “Cherry Soda,” by Robert Ellison, outside the Boulevard Cinemas.

Merlone Geier is the first developer in town to choose the do-it-yourself option, which involved enlisting Martin as the project’s designer and getting the art committee’s approval for their plan. Other developments, such as the Target shopping center, paid the 1 percent developer fee to the art fund, which currently has a balance of $317,540. The art committee is planning to use some of this funding for an undetermined public artwork on Water Street, with plans to seek proposals from artists all over the world beginning this fall.

Martin said he’ll roll out his artwork in two phases that align with the construction and opening of new buildings. The first phase, to be completed in September, involves the whale tail, a 20-foot-tall abstract tree sculpture next to Mary’s Pizza Shack and decorative benches created by Martin and local artist David Duskin. The second phase will include installing pedestals to showcase local artwork, creating a community art walk through the shopping center. Martin said handcrafted benches will align with the pedestals for ease of viewing, and the artwork could potentially rotate on a yearly basis.

Alison Marks, chair of the city’s art committee, said the committee is waiting until the effort is completed before reflecting on the artwork as a whole. But so far, Marks is impressed.

“I think the sculpture is a really wonderful piece,” she said.

As for the new dog park, which is tucked in the back of the shopping center, Geertsen said he’s received positive feedback on the design, and many residents enjoy the fact that it’s fully fenced to keep dogs safe.

“We love it,” said Marcela Corrales, who was enjoying the park this week with her family and two standard poodles, Mindy and Ringo. “We come just about everyday.”