Public Art

New City Artwork Celebrates Diversity, Inclusion and History 
Burlingame’s New Permanent Public Artwork by Bay Area artist, John Roloff

Inspired by the values and accomplishments of City's namesake Anson Burlingame

Workshop View of Anson Burlingame and the Principles of Eternal Justice

Workshop view of "Anson Burlingame and the Principles of Eternal Justice” by Bay Area artist John Roloff

BURLINGAME, CAAnson Burlingame and the Principles of Eternal Justice will be the City's first permanent public artwork located in Washington Park, in the heart of Burlingame, adjacent to the historic train station and Burlingame High School.  The artwork – which consists of two large sculptural portals representing the USA and China, six benches with inspirational quotes on courage, tolerance and equality, and a pathway mural representing the bringing together of different people – is intended to convey Burlingame’s values and his lifelong fight for equality of people and nations. Burlingame was a fierce abolitionist whose passionate speeches against slavery in the House of Representatives and across the country in the 1850s helped ignite popular opinion against the institution of slavery and get Abraham Lincoln elected. His later work as the first US Ambassador to China, and author of the first ever treaty between China and the United States, was another groundbreaking achievement that earned him the admiration of both governments and thought leaders across the country.

The visionary initiative, begun in 2017 as a public-private project, commemorates the democratic and utopian ideals embraced by Anson Burlingame and promoted by the City.  The City formed the Anson Burlingame Tribute Committee, comprising Michael Brownrigg, Emily Beach, David Chai, Russ Cohen, Leslie Holzman, Janet Martin, Andra Norris, Ruth Waters, and Margaret Glomstad, and selected curator Lance Fung of Fung Collaboratives (Woodside, CA) to oversee the process.  Through a national search led by Fung, the committee unanimously invited Oakland-based artist John Roloff to realize a museum-quality artwork that is both historic and yet relevant today, while also adding a sculptural and meditative element to the active and popular Washington Park. 

Roloff’s vision, Anson Burlingame and the Principles of Eternal Justice, was funded through generous donations by Kylli, a multinational real estate developer with major holdings in Burlingame, and local patrons who believe in the values that Anson Burlingame expressed.  Roloff's artwork continues his interest in public spaces, authentic materials and craftsmanship, and a life-long commitment to providing a voice and meeting place for all through conceptual and physical artworks.  “Burlingame's historical and global voice is needed now more than ever,” said Roloff. “That’s why I decided to literally carve Burlingame's words of equity, justice, and cooperation into the two anchoring Eastern and Western portals, and add complementary inspirational quotes on the benches in between.”  These statements are reproduced for all to read in English and Chinese. Roloff includes Mark Twain's tribute to Anson Burlingame interspersed with statements by other eloquent advocates for equality and freedom, including Martin Luther King, Toni Morrison, Sojourner Truth, and Chief Joseph (Nez Perce).

The portals and benches are intended to create a conversation and place for viewer contemplation and discourse on Burlingame's values - values which resonate and are needed as much today as they were in the 19th century.  

"It is such an honor to be working with an amazing group of residents to bring relevant, thought-provoking, and meaningful art to the general public through the selfless energy of two Bay Area treasures: Anson Burlingame and John Roloff," said Fung.  "The commitment, vision, and passion of these individuals are only matched by their actions and the resulting good that comes forth."

About Bay Area artist John Roloff

John Roloff is a visual artist who works conceptually with the site, process, and natural systems.  He is known for his ceramic works and outdoor kiln/furnace projects done from the 1970s into the 1990s and other large-scale environmental projects, gallery installations, and objects investigating geologic and natural phenomena.  He works from geochemical and global metabolic perspectives based on an extensive background and ongoing research in the earth sciences.  Since the late 1960s, his work has engaged poetic and site-specific relationships between material, concept and performance in the domains of geology, ecology, architecture, ceramics, industry, metabolic systems, and history.  The ship is a central image of his work, metaphorically evoking psychological and transformative processes of the sea and land in geologic and contemporary time.   He studied geology at UC Davis, in Davis, CA, with Professor Eldridge Moores and others during the formative days of plate tectonics in the late 1960s.  Contemporaneously with geology, he studied art with Bob Arneson, William T. Wiley, and others at UC Davis.  He studied with Louis Marak and received a 'master's degree in art in 1973 from CSU Humboldt.  In addition to numerous environmental, site-specific installations in the US, Canada, and Europe, his work has been included in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, UC Berkeley Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution, Photoscene Cologne, the Venice Architectural and Art Biennales, The Snow Show in Kemi, Finland, and Artlantic: wonder, Atlantic City, NJ.  Art works in the public realm that explore geologic and related concepts can be found at sites such as Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, I-5 Colonnade Park, Seattle, WA and Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.  He has received 3 visual arts fellowships from the NEA, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, a California Arts Council grant for visual artists, and a Bernard Osher Fellowship at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA.   He is represented by Anglim Gilbert (now Anlgim/Trimble) Gallery in San Francisco and is Professor Emeritus of Sculpture/Ceramics at the San Francisco Art Institute. 

About Curator Lance Fung
Lance Fung is the curator for Fung Collaboratives, an organization that conceives and realizes art exhibitions worldwide.  Fung has primarily curated large-scale public art exhibitions in the decades after closing his successful NYC gallery.  Fung curated Illuminate Coral Gables, a light and technology-based exhibition, opened to the public as a sign of hope during the pandemic.  In addition, he transformed vacant lots in both Washington D.C and Atlantic City into much-needed park systems through his art exhibition Nonuments and Artlantic. With his unique curatorial eye, Fung has curated internationally recognized exhibitions such as The Snow Show in 2003, 2004, and 2006, and Lucky Number Seven (2008) for the seventh SITE Santa Fe International Biennial, Wonderland (2009-2010).

Fung has created other important exhibitions for the Venice Biennale and the Venice Architectural Biennale.

After the Council input in September 2018, the AB Advisory Committee has refined the design in conjunction with the Artist and advocated for funding.  Donor funding in the amount of $210,000 was finally realized in April 2020.  Since that time, the City executed the contract with Fung Collaboratives and Artist John Roloff, and the Advisory Committee has had meetings with Curators Lance Fung and John Talley and Artist Roloff to refine the designs further. 

In addition, in June 2020, a community survey was circulated to get the community member's suggestions on quotes from various authors that speak to Anson Burlingame's ideals on humanity and values.  Quotes were requested for the following principles. 

  1. Equality
  2. Freedom
  3. Mutual Respect
  4. Do the Right Thing
  5. Free Speech and Thought
  6. Helping Others

To further develop the project, a subcommittee was established on October 7, 2020, to assist Artist Roloff on the final selections of the written content that will be part of the design. Due to COVID-19, the timeline for the project has been pushed back.  The Advisory Committee hopes to have an updated timeline in early 2021. 

On 9/4/18 the Anson Burlingame Art Committee and artist John Roloff met with the Burlingame City Council during a study session to seek feedback about the Anson Burlingame art project conceptual design. To see the staff report, click here.  The City Council was asked to give input on the follow questions:

  1. Do the preliminary design options reflect the goals of the project? 
  2. Do the materiality, scale, and accessibility resonate with the City Council? 
  3. Are the representations of the preliminary design options relevant now and into the future? 
  4. Are there concerns about the artwork’s meaning and/or maintenance?
Artist John Roloff presented and explained his conceptual design. Click here for the slides from the meeting.

The City Council appreciated the simplicity of the wood design and preferred the benches. The text that will be incorporated on the benches is still yet to be identified but will capture the values represented by Anson Burlingame. Additionally the knot and infinity design resonated with the City Council. 

The next steps will be to seek funding. Additional opportunities for public input will be via a community survey. Check this site or the Burlingame City eNews for further information.

7/30/18 - The consultants received 18 RFQ submissions. Of the 18 submissions, 8 were disqualified because the artist didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the RFQ or didn’t follow the RFQ instructions. The consultants, based on their extensive art background, selected the top 7 most qualified and appropriate submissions for the Subcommittee’s review. After evaluation and discussion, the Subcommittee selected three artists to be interviewed on April 4, 2018: Kate Dodd, John Roloff and Stutz/Dihn. The Subcommittee interviewed all three artists and determined that John Roloff and Stutz/Dihn should be invited to the RFP phase. 

The two artists were given eight weeks to complete the RFP phase, and on June 7, 2018, the artists presented their statement of intent, a written description and visual representations of the artwork, a budget, and a timeline.  The Subcommittee discussed the aesthetics of the design(s), the manner in which Anson Burlingame would be honored by exemplifying his actions and philosophy, the relationship of the artwork to the site location, the commitment of the artist to the project, and the feasibility of the proposed budget.  The Subcommittee subsequently decided to continue working with John Roloff to continue refining the artwork in honor of Anson Burlingame if funding becomes available.  

Upcoming:  Study session with the City Council anticipated in September 2018.  

Click here for the City of Burlingame Public Art Project RFQ - due March 23, 2018.

In February 2017, the City Council held a study session to discuss commissioning a public art piece to commemorate and honor the City's namesake, Anson Burlingame. The City subsequently contracted with Fung Collaboratives to guide the City through the process of selecting and commissioning the public art. 

The first Public Art workshop was held Tuesday, September 26, 2017.  

Staff Reports and Related Information

Anson Burlingame Public Art Study Session Staff Report - 2.22.17

Public Art Staff Report 7.3.17

Art in Public Places Administrative Policy

Public Art Workshop Part 2 - Anson Burlingame The Man and His Legacy by David Chai, Ph.D

From the Association for Public Art website: "Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions. Placed in public sites, this art is there for everyone, a form of collective community expression. Public art is a reflection of how we see the world – the artist’s response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are."