Thursday, March 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 3

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on March 7th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 1 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 1

'Tony's Zoo' returns to Waller Park in sculpture form


Residents of Santa Maria who are old enough to remember "Tony's Zoo" are in for a big surprise.

Thanks to a collaboration between several county and nonprofit organizations, the animals are back in Waller Park, if only in sculpture form. Four large animal sculptures created by the late artist Morris Squire are on loan from the Squire Foundation, part of an effort to bring public art to Northern Santa Barbara County.

Reclining Tiger is one of four life-sized animal sculptures on loan to Santa Barbara County for exhibit at Waller Park. The exhibit also includes an interactive ram sculpture that members of the community were asked to paint on.

Jana Brody, artist in residence program manager for the Squire Foundation, said the four sculptures—Reclining Tiger, Golden Jaguar, Flying Eagle, and an interactive ram sculpture—are part of the Squire Foundation's overall mission to bring public art to communities that may not be able to access it.

Brody said the tiger and eagle were made from fiberglass wrapped around chicken wire painted with acrylic paint. The jaguar was made from steel spray-painted gold. They were all produced in 2009, as part of Morris Squire's animal series created for the San Diego Zoo for its train safari for children.

"They were part of the landscape of their children's train safari tour, which has changed now," Brody said. "So we took the pieces back to use for another area. We found out the history of Waller Park, that back in the day it was a zoo. We thought it would be a great treat for old timers in the community who remembered that, as well as children."

Waller Park once housed what was known as "Tony's Zoo," which featured "Monkey Island," a small island in the lake's pond that was home to a group of monkeys. The park was also home to caged animals including a bear, a buffalo, and a camel. The animals were all eventually donated to zoos in Atascadero and Santa Barbara.

The ram is unique among the sculptures. While it was also produced the same year as the others for use in the train safari at the San Diego Zoo, the ram is made of cement on a rebar frame and primed with acrylic. The curators of the exhibit decided to do something unique with it.

The late philanthropist Morris Squire is the artist behind the sculptures appearing in Waller Park through June. The Squire Foundation partners with community and municipal groups to fulfill his mission of providing public art.

On March 3, the public was invited to participate in contributing to the artwork themselves. The Squire Foundation's Artist in Residence Nicole Berry hosted a reception that let people to paint on the ram sculpture.

"The children and everyone in the entire community were invited to come and paint on this piece," Brody said. "It's about exploring the color field and really enjoying the space. Our intent is to have the community really feel like they own this piece. We want them to be part of it."

The sculptures are located between the duck pond, playground, and walking trail at Waller Park. Brody said the sculptures would be on loan temporarily through June, but if the community expressed interested in keeping the exhibit longer, the foundation was open to considering an extension.

The sculpture exhibit is the result of a collaboration with the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture and the Santa Barbara County Parks office. Brody said the Squire Foundation also had a mural installed in Guadalupe and was part of the teen art mentorship program at the Discovery Museum in Santa Maria.

Hear me roar
The animal sculptures on loan from The Squire Foundation are available for view through June in Waller Park, located at 3107 Orcutt Road, Santa Maria.

She said the foundation is committed to bringing more public art into spaces in North County, where there's been debate over public art projects. She pointed to a recent economic report, which showed that county nonprofit arts organizations supported 5,857 jobs with $200 million in revenue, of which $19.1 million went to local and state government sources.

"There is so much value and still people oppose it," Brody said. "It's so bizarre that people don't see this. There are so many people spending money around the arts. It's impactful, not just aesthetically."

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose wants to run through the jungle. Contact her at

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