Harambee by Michael Koliner will be his first public art project on the West Coast. Fung Collaboratives invited Michael to create 3 new, ambitious public artworks for Redwood City, California. The lucky locations that will house the new works are: Mariner Park, Mezes Park, and Andrew Spinas Park. “When considering which artist to commission for this exciting project, I knew that Michael was the perfect choice. The final objects are always beautiful however Michael adds a few layers to the process that make him a thrilling and unique artist”.
Harambee comes from a Swahili word than translates to “all pull together” which is exactly what the artist will do for the creation of his artworks. The first step is for Michael to create the overall sculpture and form. He relocated to Redwood City to embark on this labor intensive and fully handmade process. In other words, these large-scale objects are not “ordered” or “fabricated”. After an extensive period of time, Michael will create his 3 Harambee events. This second step is a crucial one. Through the artist organized collective experience, the sculptural forms will be transformed into functional artwork – seating for the park. Michael provides all of the necessary materials for the volunteers and general public to work with such as: clay, sand, straw, and recycled water. As the team begins to stomp the materials together, a perfect sculpting material is created. Everyone “pulls together” to use the cob (adobe like material) to apply many coats onto Michael’s wood, metal, and earth forms. Music, food and great conversation are equally necessary ingredients for the Harambee to be a success. People passing by often are so engaged that they participate through observation or getting their hands muddy. A true sense of community evolves through the shared sense of play and joy. The third and final step is for the artist to return to his work in a sensitive and contemplative manner after letting the objects bath in the sun for a week. Michael then caresses the cob layer to shape the object into it’s final form. After a simple water sealing process, the artworks are weather proofed and ready for all to enjoy.
This fascinating and ancient building technique has proven to withstand the test of time, something that Redwood City and the artist also embrace. We hope that the many people who participated or use the new public art not only realize that you can “touch the art” but also sit on it, stand on it and fully immerse yourself in it and it’s beautiful environment. As the piece and the viewers age, we hope that everyone can look back at the three Harambees with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Redwood City did not purchase artwork or benches for the park but facilitated a true and lasting community project guided by Michael Koliner.
Lance M. Fung