Kern’s many pickup trucks, an enduring symbol of the county’s oil and ag industries, will be rendered small and in fiberglass this fall for an art exhibit at Bakersfield Museum of Art, before many are permanently parked along the Westside Parkway.
It’s a public art project similar to, and inspired by, Chicago’s “Cows on Parade,” Cincinnati’s “Big Pig Gig,” or even Riverside’s “Giant Orange ArtVenture” — but this time with hollow, fiberglass pickups. They’re roughly 4 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 6 feet long, and styled after memorable 1950s models like the 1956 Ford F-100.
BMOA’s show, “Driven by Art,” consists of 33 trucks decorated by local artists, ranging from professional painters to a classroom of fifth-graders. It began taking shape around 18 months ago, according to Keri Gless, a member of the BMOA board of directors, when officials were contemplating how to commemorate this year’s diamond anniversary.
Artists and sponsors worked closely in some cases, but the former were given few directions from BMOA other than to avoid obvious corporate tie-ins. Instead, perhaps naturally, many took their inspirations straight from the streets of Bakersfield.
“It’s thematically very Bakersfield-centered — the ’Bakersfield’ sign, and there’s a Buck Owens flavor to it. Just all things Bakersfield,” said Gless, who co-chairs the museum group behind “Driven by Art.” (Given the choice of medium, she offers a third alternate title for herself: “fleet director.”)
Funded with in-kind donations that include weighty concrete bases from StructureCast and transportation by Hansen’s Moving and Storage Inc., and through sponsorships including a $54,000 grant from The Bakersfield Californian Foundation, the trucks will first be the subject of a BMOA exhibit next month.
From Sept. 19 to Oct. 2, they’ll be on view at the museum ahead of the Sept. 24 preview gala, a 1950s-themed cocktail party with dinner, dancing and casino games.
The BMOA exhibit wraps on Oct. 2 with “Truck-a-Palooza,” an afternoon for kids to see the art trucks, real pickup trucks, try food from food trucks, and make pickup-related art of their own.
Then, the act hits the road. From Oct. 7-Jan. 6 — bookended by two First Friday events — the trucks will be on view at various locations around downtown, including the Wall Street Alley, the Fox Theater, City Hall South, and the Rabobank Arena.
The one location outside downtown where you’ll be able to see an art truck is at The Marketplace, which sponsored its own.
Northwest Councilman Bob Smith sponsored a pickup, too, and first suggested approaching sponsors to see if they’d allow their trucks to be permanently implanted along the Westside Parkway, at either its Calloway Drive or Mohawk Street exits. Of the 33 truck sponsors, 13 said yes.
Bakersfield had for more than a year been seeking sponsors to fund art along the freeway segment, also at Smith’s request, but hadn’t had any luck, despite having its own webpage.
The trucks, he said, seemed like a natural way to, er, jumpstart the idea.
“My feeling is that we haven’t really marketed it as well as we could have,” Smith said. “To be able to do this to kick it off is a great way to get it started in the community.”
Caleb Blaschke, a management assistant in the city manager’s office who informed the City Council’s Community Services Committee about the arrangement last week, agreed.
“We’re really hoping this kind of spurs it and gets people wanting to get involved and donate and sponsor art along the Westside Parkway,” Blaschke said. The 13 headed for the Westside Parkway are expected to be installed some time after Jan. 6.
The City of Bakersfield doesn’t yet have final approval for the art installation from Caltrans, which is expected to take over control of the Westside Parkway in about three years.
John Liu, Caltrans District 6 director of maintenance and operations, said the state transportation department hasn’t seen a specific proposal yet, but “generally we are OK with the concept.”
“We actually have a program called Highway Art that I think this would fall into. We would just need to review the proposal,” Liu said.