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  • CRA/LA’S commitment to public art began over 40 years ago.
  • Over 200 art projects in 21 redevelopment project areas have been completed to date.
  • California Plaza developers met their art requirement by building a $23 million facility for the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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 \\Commonspot\internet-site\images\bullet1 Art Projects
James Surls
Once There Was A Forest

Project Area: CBD/Financial Core
Project: Citicorp Plaza Phase I
Project Location: Ernst & Young Building, 725 S. Figueroa Street
Project Type: Developer


A collaboration between poet Robert Creeley and artist James Surls, Once There Was a Forest consists of polished black granite cylindrical bollards that suggest petrified tree stumps arranged in an arc stretched across the front steps of the office building.  The top surface of each bollard has a polished pink granite square incised with images and poetry by Robert Creeley, including images of a bowl, a woodpecker, a bed, a pair of human eyes, a rocking chair, and a sailboat.  The bollards provide a place for people to rest and observe the passing traffic, while the poetry etched on the surface act as reminders of a history and space far removed from the quotidian bustle of immediate life.

They say this used to be a forest with a lake
You went by so quickly thinking there's a whole world in between
If I sit here long enough, all will pass me by one way or another
World's still got four corners
No one speaks alone, it comes out of something
What's still here settles at the edges of this simple place still waiting to be seen
Human eyes are lights to me sealed in this stone
It's not a final distance.  This here and now

Once There was a Forest

Artist Profile

James Surls received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  In 1979, Surls was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.  The artist has also received great recognition in Texas.  He has been awarded the Texas Artist of the Year in 1991 and a “Living Legend Award” from the Dallas Contemporary Art Center in 1993.  Surls has exhibited his work in solo shows at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston; El Paso Museum of Art; the University of Texas, Tyler; Cranbrook Academy Museum of Art; and the Seattle Arts Museum.  The artist lives with his wife and seven daughters in Carbondale, Colorado.