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When David Codding built the new Boudin Bakery & Caf?building on the northwest corner of his Montgomery Village Shopping Center, he had two choices when it came to the city's public art requirements.

He could write a check for 1 percent of the $2.5 million project's value, or $25,000, money that would allow the city to commission and install an art project somewhere else. Or he could spend that same $25,000 incorporating original art into his project.

He chose the latter, and the reviews are, well, mixed.

Codding and mall marketing director Melissa Williams are thrilled with the resulting sculpture garden, which includes bronze figures of frolicking children and peaceful deer.

The city's art coordinator is concerned that she was never consulted about the final art proposal.

And a member of the city's Art in Public Places Committee is upset some of the sculptures are not originals but were purchased over the Internet.

"To me, putting two statues from a catalog together with some deer and a little girl doesn't make it original," said Judy Kennedy, a local artist and member of the art committee. "There is nothing original about it. It's all schlock."

The kerfuffle raises questions about how the city implements its 2006 public art law and how much say the city should have over art projects installed on private property.

The sculpture garden Codding built to replace the covered wagon that long occupied that corner features three bronze sculptures.

One is an original piece by Texas artist Ron Schaefer, whom Williams said she came across online. The work features a mother doe and her fawn beside a little girl wearing a dress and carrying a handful of flowers.

"It was mostly just the thought of doing something innocent," Williams said.

Schaefer said Williams and Codding spotted a photo of a life-sized sculpture he did of two male deer locking horns, which he named "Texas Duel." Schaefer's website says his goal is to "define wildlife ... for gifts, your home, office, trophy room and landscaping."

Though he didn't have much experience sculpting people, he said he worked hard with Williams to incorporate a child into the piece.

"It's not that I can't do a human; it just took me longer," Schaefer said.

He first sculpted the figures in clay, and then took them to a foundry in Texas where the lost wax method was used to cast them in ?-inch thick bronze. The pieces, which weigh several hundred pounds each, were then assembled, shipped to Santa Rosa by truck and installed at the intersection of Farmers Lane and Montgomery Drive.

They paid a total of $68,000 for the piece, Williams said. Schaefer retains the right to make and sell four other copies of the statue, he said.

Codding, who owned a beloved but troublesome pet deer named Buck when he was a youngster, said he wanted the sculpture garden to feature deer but also be an inviting place for children and families.

To emphasize the theme of childhood, Codding purchased the other two sculptures from the Randolph Rose Collection of Yonkers, N.Y. The company sells a large volume and variety of stock and custom bronze sculptures, including life-sized racehorses, mermaid fountains, cherubs, puppies, and golfers.

Codding said he instantly liked one for sale on the website depicting a boy and a girl climbing a hill, the boy holding aloft an American flag. The piece is called "I Love My Country," and Codding said it reminded him of the iconic pose of U.S. Marines planting a flag atop Iwo Jima.

The pose seemed fitting, he said, because Montgomery Village was built during the post World War II boom and his father, developer Hugh Codding, named the mall after Billy Montgomery, the first person from Santa Rosa to be killed in the war.

The third sculpture is of a boy and a girl twirling a jump rope into the shape of an arch, which leads to the bakery building to the east.

Kennedy said she was driving down Montgomery Drive last month, spotted the sculptures after they were installed, and couldn't believe her eyes.

"I recognized it immediately as a garden statue that has been advertized in art magazines for decades," Kennedy said of the child with the flag.

She said she had the same impression of the jump roping sculpture, and called deer sculptures "a dime a dozen."

Aware the city ordinance required original art, Kennedy went online, confirmed her suspicions that the two works were mass-produced copies, and raised her concerns at the Art in Public Places Committee meeting earlier this month. She said she was told the committee could not discuss the issue because it was not on the agenda.

Informed that the statue of the deer and girl was an original that cost well over the $25,000 required, Kennedy was undeterred. Making an original version of something lacking artistry doesn't qualify something as appropriate for public art, she said.

"It's yard art. Put it in your yard!" Kennedy said. "I just think it's inappropriate."

A city brochure explaining the program makes it clear that the city is not in the business of judging developers' taste in art.

"For on-site public art, the choice of artist, style, medium and imagery will be yours," it reads.

The city's role is to make sure the art is durable, visible, appropriate for the site, and doesn't pose a hazard, the brochure explains.

The city's arts coordinator, Tara Matheny-Schuster said she spoke to Williams last year and made it clear that the art installation would need her approval before final building permits would be approved.

But Codding and Williams never submitted a formal proposal to her, which created some confusion, she said. Instead, she only saw the final product after it was installed.

"It was all kind of out-of-order and unfortunate how it happened," Matheny-Schuster said.

Williams said she had submitted sketches of the art garden to the city's planning department and assumed that was sufficient to satisfy the city.

"We thought everyone was OK," Codding said.

With the grand opening imminent last month, Matheny-Schuster said she wasn't going to hold up the new business' building permits and signed off on the permits July 15.

On Monday, Matheny-Schuster said that based on her initial review of the installed sculptures, she would have sought the input of the Art in Public Places Committee, which she believed would have "major concerns" about portions of the project.

The committee is advisory but is rarely consulted for such private projects, she said, adding that its primary function is to give guidance on public art projects commissioned by the city.

Most art in private development projects has gone off without a hitch, she said.

Such art includes the stained glass windows by Santa Rosa artist Ellen Blakeley incorporated in the new Luther Burbank Savings building downtown, a mural on the side of BJ's Brewhouse at Coddingtown mall by East Bay artist Martin Webb, and bronze sculptures of a dog and a cat outside a veterinarian office on Mendocino Avenue by Sonoma sculptor Jim Callahan.

After Codding and Williams contacted her with more information Tuesday, however, Matheny-Schuster said it won't be necessary to consult the committee.

Codding has spent substantially more than required on the original art, she said. The other two works, while mass produced, are above and beyond what's required and therefore are not an issue, she said.

Codding agreed to submit whatever information about the statues the city requires after the fact, she said.

"They actually did fulfill what they were required to do," Matheny-Schuster said. "We don't make the determination of whether it's good."

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.

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