Courtesy: Patrick McElhenney
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Baywatch Avalon

Avalon, California

Sandow Birk (, Elyse Pignolet

Avalon Lifeguard Headquarters, 440 Avalon Canyon Road, Avalon, California, 90704
Owner:  Los Angeles County Arts Commission Civic Art Collection
Date:  2010
Placement:  fire stations
Artwork Type:  mosaics (visual works)
Material:  ceramic tile
Description:  The Lifeguard Division of the Los Angeles County Fire Department works closely with the City of Avalon Fire Department and the United States Coast Guard to provide emergency assistance to Catalina Island. The Avalon Lifeguard Headquarters provides needed support for the Lifeguard Division’s operations. The facility is a 7,005 square foot lifeguard and paramedic station, with office space, reception area, living quarters for personnel, and a bay for emergency vehicles and watercraft trailers. Artist Sandow Birk designed a ceramic tile mural for the curved wall at the Headquarters’ front entrance. Using a traditional “azulejo” blue and white glazing technique (seen in many Iberian buildings from the 15th Century onwards), the mural depicts a seemingly tranquil Avalon Harbor, its peace broken only by a ship in distress near the horizon and a County vessel speeding to its rescue. This seascape is bordered by tiles inspired by the Catalina Tile Company’s designs as well as images of helicopters, lifeguard towers, and other means that the lifeguards use to save lives. Below the words, “Baywatch Avalon” are dots and dashes that signal SOS in Morse Code – the universal distress call that the Lifeguard Division always answers. The artwork was installed in July 2009. The building was dedicated on April 30, 2010.

About the Artist :A Southern California native, Sandow Birk received a BFA from the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. He went on to receive an NEA International Travel Grant as well as Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Getty Fellowships. Birk has had over 40 solo exhibitions and many prominent collections possess his artwork, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the DeYoung Museum, and the Harvard University Art Museum. He has completed public art commissions for the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), and the City of Long Beach. Long Beach is also where Birk currently resides and maintains a studio practice.

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