Art fundraiser grabs attention of Riverside residents

While driving around Riverside, it is hard to miss the huge oranges on display in front of local business and homes. Many visitors and residents of Riverside are asking “what are they for?”

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By Courtney Grabendike

RIVERSIDE’S RICH HERITAGE-Over 30 oranges depicting Riverside history reside in the city. From left

By Courtney Grabendike

While driving around Riverside, it is hard to miss the huge oranges on display in front of local business and homes. Many visitors and residents of Riverside are asking “what are they for?”

Some are painted with bright and wild colors, while others have statuettes attached to portray a historical scene.

Every one of the 32 oranges has a different meaning, a special story and a unique creator.

In 2005, chair of the Art Alliance of the Riverside Art Museum, Kathy Allavie, and co-chair Phyllis Crabtree, were searching for something to base a fundraiser around.

Many other cities had done similar fundraisers in which they found an animal that represented their heritage and had life-sized characters built, designed and placed around the city.

“We originally thought we could find a representative Riverside ‘animal’ but none seemed exactly right–hence the orange, which was just perfect,” Allavie said.

Ultimately, the committee found that oranges and Riverside residents were a perfect match.

Different businesses and residents of Riverside, such as The Mission Inn, The Press-Enterprise and Gless Ranch, bought the larger than life oranges for $5,000 and sponsored local artists to create his or her masterpiece.

After the oranges were completed, the sponsor could determine whether to keep the art piece or donate it to someone else.

On June 1, 2006 the oranges were unveiled and celebrated at White Park. All 32 oranges were kept on display in the downtown Riverside Mile Square area until late 2006, when they were moved to their permanent homes as determined by the sponsor of each orange.

While each piece does maintain its own owner and identity, they are still linked together by “The Giant Orange Artventure.”

Many of the 32 oranges are displayed in public places around the city.

“Under the Citrus Sun” can be found at the Riverside Plaza, “Juicy Scoop” lives in front of The Press-Enterprise, while “Picked by Hand,” “The Gemmed Orange” and “Museum of Modern Oranges” grace the halls of our public libraries.

Others are located at private homes throughout Riverside and even one that was sent to Canada.

The success of the Oranges came as a shock to the Art Alliance when they passed their original goal of 30 oranges and received a multitude of beautiful designs competing to be on an orange.

While some sponsors chose their own artist, other artists were chosen from the pool of designs that were sent into the Art Alliance.

Shortly after the debut of the oranges, The Art Alliance of Riverside was awarded the “2007 Arts and Culture Award” by Riverside Downtown Partnership.

But, with all their beauty and originality, the oranges are attracting bad attention as well.

“The public ones are being vandalized and eventually will not be able to be displayed,” said Allavie. “In a perfect world, they could have lasted for 10 years or more as outdoor art, but people have hammered them and even unbolted them and rolled them into the street.”

Poignantly, the oranges took extensive time to be accepted, created, sold and above all created.

The hours of artists work that when into each orange is immeasurable yet people are vandalizing them. The sabotaging will cause some oranges to be put into storage, as they may become an eye sore rather than a gem.

“Some people want us to do the project again, but that could only happen if we could find a way to keep them safe,” said Allavie. Their beauty lights up popular and historic Riverside locations, while the artwork symbolizes and expresses many locals’ views and memories of this city.

For a complete list of artist, sponsors, and locations of the oranges, visit www.thegiantorange.com.

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