Santa Monica unveiled the city’s newest sculpture this week ahead of Sunday’s grand opening celebration of Historic Belmar Park.
Residents driving down 4th Street towards Pico Avenue Tuesday afternoon caught a clear glimpse of “A Resurrection in Four Stanzas,” an outdoor exhibition created by artist April Banks that seeks to illustrate the stories and dreams of the Santa Monicans who were displaced from the city.
Banks’ sculpture imitates the architectural style of a shotgun house, which was a prominent structure in the Belmar community that thrived in the first half of the 20th century before the City of Santa Monica took control through eminent domain in the 1950s to build the Civic Center.
“This is definitely about bringing awareness of this neighborhood because there are so few people who know that this history exists, so I thought it was important to do something monumental,” Banks said, detailing how she imagines locals wandering throughout the structure.
The piece is located just outside of the new Civic Center Multipurpose Sports Field and accompanies interpretive text panels that will display different texts and images depending on the direction of the sun.
The panels were researched and written by Historian Alison R. Jefferson, but residents like Janeen Jackson, Kathleen Benjamin, Robbie Jones and others on the Belmar History + Art Community Advisory Committee also met with the community to find the tales and historical archives that illuminate the history of the neighborhood’s favorite businesses, places of worship and underrepresented stories of its community members.
“This project is amazing because it is about acknowledgment, accountability, action and restoration for our community. It just means so much for the city to decide to help make this happen, and I think it really speaks volumes to our Black community in Santa Monica,” Benjamin said during Tuesday’s unveiling. “It’s interesting that it’s called ‘A Resurrection in Four Stanzas,’ because it resurrects our history and gives us a stronger foundation going forward.”
There are residents alive today who remember losing their home in the 1950s, Benjamin added as she thanked the city’s Cultural Affairs Manager Shannon Daut and Interim City Manager Lane Dilg for giving the project a chance to come to life.
“We were just standing here, staring across our street, thinking that’s our high school and going, ‘Wow,’” Jones said. “I never imagined anything like this happening in my life, so I thank everybody involved who helped make it happen.”
Dilg downplayed her role in the matter Tuesday, stating the work was done by the community.
“It’s incredibly exciting to see this open because it reflects years of community engagement and years of community activism from those who wanted to see additional public space in Santa Monica,” Dilg said, “and for those who have been saying for a long time, ‘We need to do more to recognize and lift up our Black community in Santa Monica.’”
Benjamin interjected to say Dilg’s “cohesive nature” helped bring many of the project’s different stakeholders together to inspire art and find a common perspective.
Cohesion is probably the most powerful aspect of the project, Dilg added. “When our community comes together, we can do extraordinary things that really model how we can look at your history, how we can reflect on it and how we can really draw from that to create positive energy for the future.”
Speaking of the future, Sunday’s virtual event will include the burial of a Time Capsule that will remain at the entryway of the sculpture until June 19, 2070.
City leaders invited residents to register for the virtual grand opening celebration by visiting santamonica.gov/historicbelmarpark, before saying visitors are welcomed to come view the sculpture, interpretive texts at Historic Belmar Park in a safe manner when they are comfortable to do so.