Santa Rosa plans public art for Coffey Neighborhood Park

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Coffey Park art project

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Santa Rosa officials are looking for creators to design a piece of public art for the soon-to-be-rebuilt Coffey Neighborhood Park as a marker of the community’s resilience.

The art, which is being commissioned for the nearly 6-acre city-owned park, is intended to commemorate the Tubbs fire and the identity of a neighborhood that united in the face of unthinkable disaster. The October 2017 firestorm killed four people in Coffey Park, and destroyed more than 1,300 homes and the entire park in the northwest Santa Rosa neighborhood.

City officials have hired a design team to recreate the park, incorporating community feedback and ideas from Schaefer Charter School fourth-graders. A meeting for the public to weigh in on the draft master plan is set for Saturday, and the City Council could review the plans as early as March, said Kristi Buffo, marketing and outreach coordinator with the city’s recreation and parks department.

“(The city) wanted to include public art in the park as a healing part of the process,” said Tara Thompson, the city’s arts coordinator for Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks. “Art can provide that kind of recognition, and it can be a process for a neighborhood to collaborate.”

The city last week issued a call for working artists in California to submit their qualifications, including an artist’s statement and images depicting their previous artwork, by Feb. 7. Finalists will be interviewed by a selection panel that includes artists and members of the Coffey Strong neighborhood group and the city’s public art committee, Thompson said. Neighborhood surveys have indicated residents would prefer interactive and functional public art, such as playground equipment and seating.

The city would pay the artist or team of artists $50,000 from its public art fund, and the community will be involved with the process to design the piece. The art could be completed and installed by June.

“It’s being created with the intent of bringing back the beauty to Coffey Park, and so it being there is going to allow people to have something visible that represents the rebirth of the neighborhood,” said Sasha Butler, a Coffey Strong board member who’s part of the selection committee for the project.

Coffey Strong board member Tricia Woods said she hopes the future project can be “uplifting.”

“It’s been a year and five months since (the fires) happened, and a day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t thought about it,” said Woods, who plans to move back into her rebuilt Hopper Avenue home in the coming weeks. “I keep waiting for a day to go by that it doesn’t come up in conversation. ... It’s a huge event, a very traumatic event and one that’s with us on a daily basis. To have something that commemorates that would be nice.”

The park will be rebuilt in several phases, and could be open to the public by the end of the year, Buffo said.

Half of the $5 million project could be reimbursed by funds from FEMA, insurance and the state, but the city is required to pay for costs upfront.

The Santa Rosa Parks Foundation has raised about $31,000 to help the city rebuild its fire-damaged park, according to a December update.

You can reach Staff Writer Hannah Beausang at 707-521-5214 or On Twitter @hannahbeausang.

Coffey Park art project

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