Richmond public art to honor Native American shellmound site

Richmond public art to honor Native American shellmound site
Work is underway at the corner of Pierson Avenue and South 27th Street in Richmond to prepare a site for an art installation honoring a Native American shellmound site. (Photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

The bulldozers are out and stirring up dirt in the park on the corner of Pierson Avenue and South 27th Street in Richmond, where preparation is underway for a new art installation that will honor an Ohlone and Miwok shellmound burial site.

Internationally acclaimed artist Masayuki Nagase has been commissioned by the City of Richmond to carve 11 granite boulders using symbols and stories that were shared with him by tribal members.

In the last few years, Nagase has worked on other Bay Area art projects at the North Berkeley Senior Center in Berkeley and also at San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco.

“After several years of planning and creating the hand-carved stone boulders, the fabrication of the art is complete and the art is ready to be installed,” per the City in a statement. In the following video, Nagase offers more details about the installation.

The emerging public art, expected to be completed by the end of October, was prompted by work on the Officer Bradley A. Moody Memorial Underpass five years ago. At that time, excavation uncovered the shellmound burial ground, which was determined to be hundreds of years old and was eventually attributed to the Ohlone and Miwok Native Americans.

“To honor the ancestors and historic stewards of the land Richmond residents call home, the City’s Arts and Culture Division, Arts and Culture Commission and the Public Art Advisory Committee agreed that the history of the Ohlone and Miwok peoples should be the focus of the public art to be installed at the site, as required pursuant to the city’s Percent for Art Resolution,” according to the City.

On Wednesday, project worker Guillermo Garcia and two other colleagues from Don’s Landscaping were hard at work on the project, transforming a tree lined slip of land into what will become the canvas for Nagase’s work.