San Francisco artist Brian Goggin stood in front of a crowd at the Petaluma Community Center last week ready to give a progress report to an audience deeply divided over his bathtub art installation, “Fine Balance.”
In a candid moment, showing his own self-awareness of how inflamed the discussion over the Water Street installation has become, Goggin drew laughs as he gasped and shuddered to mirror the crowd’s groans in reaction to an aerial view of his initial concept.
His proposal, which features five Victorian ball-and-claw bathtubs on stilts, has been plagued by public outrage since drawings of the Petaluma Public Art Committee’s first commissioned project went viral in April.
Months later, after PPAC approval and an OK by the city council to continue, Goggin last Thursday presented a series of new images and an animation that demonstrated the ongoing adjustments being made with city officials. Since July, he’s been forming a final concept that addressed a spectrum of concerns regarding safety and access at the cherished waterfront site.
“I feel that the evolution that you took this project (through) is more than I could’ve imagined,” said committee member Heather Mackin. “I really thought, ‘Wow, (the public) is going to stump him somehow.’ And you’ve addressed it in such a beautiful way – all these changes – and I think it’s really made the project evolve to something so much better than I originally thought it was.”
Goggin has been meeting with the city’s development review committee, which is comprised of management-level staff from departments like planning, building and fire, to evaluate plans and hone in on designs that comply with local regulations. The DRC was formed in 2011 to help developers and businesses expedite permitting processes.
Through that ongoing collaboration, in addition to Goggin’s individual efforts, several adjustments came to light at last week’s meeting.
The tubs will now be separated into three different areas, spanning a single block on Water Street to accommodate events like the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival. Based on the current plans, some of them will be partially visible from Petaluma Boulevard.
To comply with ADA standards, each tub will sit on a raised 6-inch cylinder. The angled, iron stilts will be two inches wide, propping up molds of tubs that are made with lightweight, ecopoxy fiber glass. The approximate height of the stilts will range from 22 feet to as high as 27 feet.
Each tub will be covered by a clear, false top to sheet-out rainfall accumulating higher than an inch, and any debris that might collect. Rain that does accumulate will appear to be resting in the tub, an optical illusion designed to delight anyone that views the installation from higher ground, Goggin said.
He plans to explore and review different color schemes to paint the tubs with the PPAC.
The nearby benches will be purposefully relocated as well.
At times, the tension between the PPAC and bathtub opponents rose to the surface. One attendant even stormed out, cursing the project as he exited – a move met with applause by some and scolds from others. Residents spoke out of turn and raised questions outside the public comment period on numerous occasions, forcing PPAC Chair Beverly Schor to slap the table in her own imitation of a gavel.
To learn more about the project, visit the “Fine Blance” website at finebalance.art.