The dialog on the morning of the first meeting started over breakfast at a local cafe called Eat Chow. Ryan Smolar and I (Madeleine Spencer) met first with our creative engineering team members Arman Bastiani and Andrew Wright from the company Oval Integration.
The project idea was to light up the tree to make it interactive and we discussed the myriad ways that this could be accomplished. We imagined what would happen if the fence lit up as people walked by and all the ways to immediately engage the pedestrian in its involvement with a tree. A tree that most would pass by without noticing its historic value.
At the first meeting we also had Manny Escamilla our City's Historical Librarian. Beginning our tour we walked from bush and 3rd Street through the historic buildings, the bones of our city. We stopped beside other memorialized spots, and discussed tactical urbanism such as the ways in which city walls are being turned into virtual libraries in other places at subway and metro stops.
When we arrived at the site of our Sycamore Tree we were met by the Industrial Artist Stacy Dukes.
We were surprised to find that as we stood discussing the project the beginning of our community engagement phase had already begun. Walking through the lot where we stood was a local businessman named Manny Pena. As we began to describe what we were working on he pointed to the surrounding businesses and the new Restaurant that had just opened on Broadway and told us he knew that Diego one of the managers of Hectors among other businesses would be very excited to help with this Legacy project.
This was the beginning of what we would soon come to see happen....
One of our project team members, an industrial artist by the name of Stacy Dukes. He was really interested in knowing what the original Sycamore tree that stood in this spot on 5th and Sycamore street looked like originally. Ryan Smolar then reached out to our team Historian Manny Escamilla to find out. Manny was soon able to dig up the historical record and a picture of the tree, as seen below. According to Stacy Dukes, "Projects are not simple—or hard--they are emphatic explorations," and this was the beginning point of our groups emphatic exploration into the historic past and how that past would hopefully link us to the present.
What we are beginning to find here, is that this present tree, its placement within the city, its legacy, is much more than the mere ground on which it sits. The tree is more than its relationship to the current parking lot in which it resides, the fence that stands beside it, or the asphalt lot that was poured around it. The tree in fact is a link to the history of place.
The tree itself establishes a history, a continuity of place and time. If we look back into the native traditions we even find that while most of us use the term "sense of place" often and rather carelessly when we think about nature or our home, in reality our senses of place, do not really belong to us alone at all, but rather has been created by individuals and other cultures before us and far beyond our individual experiences of place and time.
Taking the time to notice this is part of the process of re-membering is a very important part of the work. Looking at the past, re-membering the tree holds a history as well is a real process that must occur for us to re-link past to present and bring the attention needed for th bring health of the tree to be restored. Its disrepair has come from the community forgetting the birthplace of the city. Therefore, the journey is about recovering the birth place of the dream that is today The City of Santa Ana, CA.
Old Sycamore Hall, Santa Ana's amusement center in the 1880's.
Old Sycamore Hall, Santa Ana's amusement center in the 1880's. Duplicate photo labelled as: Sycamore Hall 1875. Brewery Salon sign is partially visible under a huge tree in front of the hall. Men are also visible standing and sitting outside of the building.
Santa Ana Public Library
Copyright restrictions applying to use or reproduction of this image available from the Santa Ana Public Library. W. P. A. Cities & Towns vol.
The first time I heard about the so-called Spurgeon Tree was during a public comment testimony at a Santa Ana City Council meeting by Jim Kendrick. Jim was well known around downtown. He ran a throw-back magazine stand and convenience store called Rags International Newsstand on a block adjacent to the tree for nearly 10 years.
As a long-time resident of the city, Jim had served on the Parks and Recreation Commission and he often lamented the glory days of the Christmas Parade on Broadway, he wished for the city to embrace OC Pride, he cursed the ever-rising cigarette tax, he sweeped the sidewalks up and down his block and he even had a plan to re-design Broadway with better lighting, planters and parking long before these types of improvements became en vogue urban design. Jim always wanted to see downtown get better and to re-establish itself as the center of the community and its pride. Unforunately, Jim's business opened on Artwalk evening in May 2007 and he shut it down on Artwalk eve nine years later in May 2016.
One year after his closure, on what would have been Rags' 10 year anniversary, we will debut the Calliotree at the Spurgeon Tree site that Jim originally brought our attention to. While we wish Rags was still here on the neighboring block, we're excited to see one of Jim's many ideas move forward as a civic art project. We hope he will help us celebrate the beloved Spurgeon Tree on May 6, 2017 and be recognized for his passion and ferocity for downtown that still inspires us today.
The Memoirs is a multi-perspective series of anecdotes detailing how this project came together.
Story by Ryan Smolar
Photos and story by Madeleine Spencer
Each holiday season, an LA arboretum called the Descanso Gardens transforms itself into an LED-powered winter wonderland. The Calliotree crew decided to visit this exhibit and see what worked and what didn't. We traveled up to Los Angeles, excited to drink in the lights of night in the forest.
There were several areas of the gardens and woodlands decorated with a variety of light, sound and interactivity. We felt that the exhibits that employed as many senses as possible using visual, sound and tactile response were the most successful and interesting. Unfortunately, members of our group felt like the exhibits that did employ interactivity did so in a way that pandered to children and were also overrun by them while playful adults felt somewhat left out.
Santa Ana Birthplace Location
We believe the Calliotree is an amazing revival of local history using organic life, digital technology, and simple creativity.