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.