A National Monument to John Steinbeck and Cannery Row

Submitted by Steven Whyte

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Client: Cannery Row Company

Location: Monterey, CA, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $1,000,000

Project Team

Artist

Steven Whyte

Steven Whyte Studios

Industry Resource

Artworks Foundry

Overview

With its powerful literary legacy, Cannery Row is an attraction of international renown. However, until 2015, the locale lacked a central visual element that effectively communicated the camaraderie and celebration that Cannery Row is known for. The Cannery Row Company determined that a new public art monument featuring characters from John Steinbeck’s novella Cannery Row should serve as a new landmark destination for tourists and local residents. Steven Whyte, who had previously rented studio space on “the Row”, was awarded the commission of building nine slightly over life-size bronze figures on a 17’ x 20’ x 16’ stone formation. .

Goals

The design for the sculptural installation for Cannery Row’s Steinbeck Plaza focused on four main objectives. First, the piece was designed with respect to the site’s existing landscape, both natural and constructed. Second, the monument enhances the public’s interactions with the location through visual stimulation and educational impact. Third, the piece echoes the authenticity of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row by carefully depicting the novel’s characters. Finally, Whyte wanted to echo the realism and detail of Steinbeck’s novella to the best of his ability.

Located at the center of Cannery Row, the monument provides opportunities for commemorative photographs, and is a natural gathering place for visitors. Its placement and the sculpted rock element complement the natural scenery, but still do not distract from it. The rock-like base is outfitted with several low-level water pumps that allow water to trickle down the sides of the sculpted cliff, giving the monument the slight sheen of a natural coastal rock. The monument includes several interactive elements as well.


Process

The opportunity to install a monument in the very location he once had his studio was a tremendous honor, but there was the added responsibility of making such a big impact on the artistic landscape of his own community. As ever, Whyte approached the challenge with comprehensive research and creativity. Each figure was meticulously researched to correspond to Steinbeck’s fictional account and historical authenticity. Whyte also wanted to make sure that the monument allowed for public interaction and that it would increase understanding and appreciation of Cannery Row and the Monterey Peninsula. He consulted with the Steinbeck family, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and local historical groups to ensure authenticity as well as ethnic sensitivity.