Fiberglass oranges bring art awareness

The large citrus population of Riverside is no longer defined solely by the actual fruit, but also by decorated “giant” oranges, which are becoming well-known all around Riverside.

Throughout the city, including private homes, 32 oranges are showcased for visitors, bringing awareness to local artists, businesses and sponsors through the “Giant Orange Artventure.”

This past year, due to the success of the initial project, the city launched the second smaller orange series, “Orange Aid,” in which eight smaller and specifically designed oranges were placed around Riverside.

Kathy Allavie, president of the Art Alliance’s “Giant Orange Artventure,” spent two years on the project in hopes of bringing awareness to the Riverside Art Museum as well as public art around Riverside.

The giant, decorated oranges stemmed from a small idea which expanded, according to Allavie. The Art Alliance wanted something to display to the public that was specific and unique to the city.

Drew Oberjuerge, executive director of the RAM, was in direct communication with the Art Alliance for the orange project.

“The women that are involved with the Art Alliance are interested in public art projects,” Oberjuerge said. “Their main purpose is that they want art to be available to our community.”

Initially, the thought was creating a giant animal made of fiberglass, uniquely designed and decorated to represent the city, as countless other cities across the nation have done. Some displays range from cows to wolves, but the idea for Riverside was not as easy since there is no specific animal.

“We wanted an animal to be displayed but couldn’t quite think of one that was specific to Riverside and something people would enjoy,” Allavie said. “Then we did research and, to our knowledge, no one had ever done a fruit before. That is where the idea of the oranges came to be.”

Sponsors, businesses and private buyers purchased the oranges up front for $5,000 and they were able to decide the design that they wanted as well as where they would be placed.

With about 100 artists submitting designs for the giant oranges, each of the 32 orange owners chose the one they wanted. Some chose a design that went specifically with their business while others chose ones that had a personal relevance.

The Press-Enterprise purchased an orange and had it designed as a journalist with a hat, hands and a notepad.

Eliza Tibets, famous for bringing the first naval orange to Riverside, had an orange sponsored and designed by her great-great-great-great granddaughter in her remembrance.

According to Allavie, the “Giant Orange Artventure” was the most successful fundraiser the RAM put on for Riverside generating over $175,000 for the city. The money raised from the fundraiser went specifically back to the RAM as the expenses to maintain the museum are extremely high.

Aside from the oranges specifically benefiting Riverside, one was also given to Riverside’s sister city in Japan — Sendai.

In 2006, former Mayor Ron Loveridge chose to send a giant orange to Sendai. It was placed in their city hall with a mosaic design on it.

“It was a gift from one sister city to another; it was a beautiful piece,” Allavie said.

One of the issues that the city was faced with was vandalism of the fiberglass oranges. They were eventually placed in front of police and fire departments for protection.

While the project was time-consuming and a large amount of work, the experience was gratifying, according to Allavie.

“I must stress that not one person could have done this,” Allavie said. “It took community, the people and the city. It was a real coordination amongst us all. If you have a strong committee with strong people, there isn’t anything you can’t accomplish.”

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