For 30 years, the mother-child sculpture adorned the bench in downtown Escondido. Then the city moved it to Grape Day Park
A bronze statue of a mother and child that stood on Grand Avenue in Escondido for three decades has been moved to a new home in Grape Day Park to the disappointment of some residents.
The sculpture, titled Reflections on Downtown, had perched on a bench in front of Filippi’s Pizza Grotto since around 1990, when it was commissioned by the city of Escondido from sculptor TJ Dixon.
The decision to move the statue came as the city carried out renovations along Grand Avenue intended to slow traffic and encourage pedestrian-friendly activities such as outdoor dining in the city’s downtown core. Construction on the first phase of the Grand Avenue Vision plan began in January and is nearing completion.
The statue was removed from its longtime home on Grand Avenue in January to make way for construction, and it was stored in a public works yard until last week when it was relocated to its new house on a bus bench on Broadway in front of Grape Day Park, near the town hall in Escondido.
Not everyone is happy with the move.
“Why would they move him? (Grand Avenue) is his place,” said Patti Thompson, local real estate agent and founder of the Escondido Friends Facebook page, which has some 60,000 members.
Thompson’s post about the move generated more than 50 comments, with most in favor of keeping the statue where it stood and several supporting the move.
Thompson said she has fond memories of posing for photos of the sculpture with her family members and looking inside the lady’s purse only to be surprised by a face that l artist had carved there.
Thompson asked why the public’s opinion was not sought on whether to move the statue, and she fears a piece of Escondido’s history will be forgotten now that the statue has been moved away from the Grand Avenue foot traffic. She also takes issue with the removal of other benches along Grand where she and others could stop for a break while shopping, dining or attending events such as Cruisin’ Grand.
Danielle Lopez, assistant director of community services for the town of Escondido, said crews began removing benches along Grand in late 2020 to make way for construction, which included narrowing the street to one lane in each direction and the widening of sidewalks.
The bench with the sculpture has been left in place for as long as possible, until work begins on this segment of Grand.
Although the city did not seek public comment on the proposed bronze statue relocation, Lopez said, the city notified the Escondido Public Art Commission and consulted with the artist’s family, as required by the city’s original contract for the play. This document specified that the city should identify three new potential locations for the statue.
Since the death of artist TJ Dixon in 2018, the city has reached out to her husband and art partner, James Nelson, who agreed the Grape Day Park location was the best option, Lopez said.
While some may miss seeing the bronze statue in its usual spot on Grand, Lopez said, those who venture to find the sculpture’s new perch on a bus bench on Broadway may also be lucky enough to see some other public art in Grape Day Park, as well as a new mural on the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
“She’s still downtown,” Lopez said of the bronze sculpture.
Space for benches along Grand is tight with areas now reserved for outdoor dining, Lopez said, but those who wish can raise the idea when discussions begin for the next phases of the Grand Avenue Vision project. .
Nelson, the artist’s husband, said he agrees with city officials that Grape Day Park is the best option to move the bronze and he doesn’t think the piece’s significance will be altered by its new location.
Nelson said he appreciates the city reaching out to him, but ultimately choosing the new location was the city’s decision.
“Once a customer buys a piece, that’s their piece to do with what they want,” Nelson said. “Things change and sometimes parts have to be moved.”
But he understands the feelings of those who wanted to see the sculpture stay on Grand. “It’s good that it matters enough to them to think about it and worry about it,” he said.