The Elk Grove City Council on Oct. 28 approved plans for $35,000 to be spent on a pair of public art sculptures for Elk Grove’s future Singh and Kaur Park. The works will be created by Roseville artist Ritu Atwal.
This 5-acre park at Artio Circle in the Laguna Ridge area is a collaborative effort between the city of Elk Grove and the Cosumnes Community Services District.
Singh and Kaur Park was named in memory of local Sikh community members Surinder Singh and Gurmej Singh Atwal, who were fatally shot in 2011 while they took a walk on East Stockton Boulevard in north Elk Grove. The killer remains at large.
Atwal will create two stainless steel sculptures, which are based on the kara or a steel bangle that both male and female Sikhs traditionally wear on their wrists. The kara’s circular form is symbolic of eternity, while the steel material represents strength, endurance, and its wearer’s unbreakable resilience.
Each of the sculptures will be about 6 inches thick and will be etched with words that represent Singh and Kaur. They will be located at opposite ends of the park, and each sculpture will be accompanied by two benches and a tree.
Atwal, who called into the teleconferenced meeting, described the importance of the kara in Sikh culture.
“It has many meanings to it (and) it’s very important to us,” she said. “It’s very representative of our beliefs and of our identity. And that’s what’s very personal, so it is a most simple and profound way to represent the two men, because there’s no way true Sikhs would not wear bangles for all of their lives.
“They were very proud of it, too. So, that is why I chose the symbol for the two men, and I named each bangle after them.”
Atwal also noted that the locations of the kara sculptures, benches and trees are intended to serve as places of resting and meditation.
Vice Mayor Steve Detrick called the artwork “appropriate.”
“I thought, how appropriate for the two gentlemen, who had an unfortunately early departure from this world, to bring something in from their culture,” he said.
Upon the inquiry of Detrick, Willis noted that the site will include a label explaining the concept of the artwork.
Council Member Pat Hume also commended Atwal for her artistic design.
“I think that it is amazing that you came up with such a simple, yet profound recognizable testament, Ms. Atwal,” he said. “Sometimes the most simple designs are the most elegant, and this certainly fits that bill.”
Amar Shergill, the community representative for the artist selection panel, acknowledged the city and City Council for their support.
“From the time of the incident itself, I know that council members have just been so thoughtful in supporting the Sikh community, and (Vice Mayor) Detrick, then mayor, was just a leader in making sure that the Sikh community knew that they were accepted and supported.
“We’re getting closer to a day when we can open this park and memorialize the sacrifices of those men and the families, and I really appreciate everything the city has done.”
The funding source for the project comes from the city’s Percent for the Arts program. The artist will receive $28,000 for the artwork’s fabrication and installation, and $7,000 will be used for administration costs.
Atwal’s artwork was selected from a pool of proposals from 37 artists. The four finalists were chosen on July 13.
Shelly Willis, art management consultant for the selection process said that the six-member artist selection panel spent many hours deciding what proposal they would choose. The city’s Art Commission unanimously approved Atwal’s proposal on Sept. 24.
Atwal is a self-taught artist whose previous works include large-scale commercial murals in the Sacramento area. She also participated in the “Off the Rails” public art project in Rocklin.
Atwal expressed excitement for her selection.
“I’m so excited and so proud to be part of this project,” she said. “It’s just amazing how the city has come together, along with the Sikh community to do this, what feels like a very historic and great moment to be a part of.”