As if by magic, four animals appeared in Oxnard's Plaza Park one summer day.
There was no fanfare for the arrival of the tiger, jaguar, ram and eagle. No banners or plaques announced their origins.
Passersby did double-takes, not used to seeing sculptures at the downtown park. Young children petted them. Some took selfies. Others climbed on top, pretending to go on a jaguar ride.
Last week, the folks who brought the public art display returned to make some repairs. They are The Squire Foundation, a Santa Barbara-based arts nonprofit that brings public art to communities around the world.
The four animals are on loan and will remain at Plaza Park through November.
Perhaps people have gotten a bit too close to the sculptures. The tiger, which is made of fiberglass, had its tail broken off. The steel jaguar needed some mending, too, with a piece poking out.
Brody said the foundation delivers and installs the animals at no cost. The foundation will fix the mishaps, too.
"We’re not afraid of people hugging them and loving them," Brody said.
Like a car that gets a lot of mileage, these sculptures get regular maintenance. At the Santa Barbara Zoo, a 10-foot gorilla owned by The Squire Foundation greets visitors. So many children hug the gorilla that the legs need to be repainted.
Brian Yanez, Oxnard's assistant public works director, knew about the foundation's public art initiative and requested the sculptures. He said Plaza Park, with its pagoda and veterans memorial, would be a perfect spot for public art. Yanez said he wasn't worried that the heavily trafficked park could lead to vandalism.
"If you're afraid of putting something like this in your community, then you're not doing your job," Yanez said. "I thought people would respect the art and they are showing that. ... It's something different to have art in public places. People are taking pictures with them."
If the tiger, jaguar, eagle and ram look familiar, it's because they were once at the San Diego Zoo. The pieces were made in 2009 by the late Morris Squire, who founded the arts nonprofit, for the zoo's train safari.
The Squire Foundation has installed public art from Catalina Island to Cambodia. Its biggest installation right now is in Guadalupe, a small city in Santa Barbara County. The 20 art sculptures are spread out and admirers are encouraged to see them all on bike.
Brody said one of the foundation's goals is to put art in unexpected places. The foundation is in talks with Oxnard for future installations after the animals leave Plaza Park in the fall.
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