For the past three years, four Long Beach State School of Art alumni documented the construction of the new Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach.
Kathryn Babcock, Helen Werner Cox, Liz Talbot and Sarah Arnold painted and sketched each of their unique views of the new bridge project.
“UNDER CONSTRUCTION: The Long Beach Port in Paintings and Photographs” is a YouTube video that was created by the Long Beach Creative Group and the Rod Briggs Memorial Gallery that helps tell the story behind the project.
According to the video, Cox and Babcock had been painting below the previous bridge before meeting chief engineer Bob Schraeder, who was leading project for the new bridge.
Schraeder granted them access to the bridge where they “really became part of the crew as they recorded the art,” he said in the video.
“We thought that was an extraordinary view, little did we know, we would soon be standing 205’ [feet] above the port on the new bridge,” Babcock said in an email.
The new Gerald Desmond Bridge is a combination of design and large scale construction and is now “the second tallest cable-stayed bridge in the U.S.” according to the bridge’s website.
The art that these four alumni created documents the daily construction of the new Gerald Desmond bridge. Their work shows the massive cranes, scaffolding, stair ways and dozens of cables that moved around every day.
But painting at such a large scale on an active construction site does have its challenges.
“You look away for a second and now the truck is gone, or the crane has moved.” Talbot said from the video.
The four artists were given a pink easy up and could paint at various points around the construction site, sometimes painting up to six hours, according to the video.
Juan Jimenez, one of the construction sites foreman, would help drive the artists up and down either side of the bridge.
“It’s really great to have reliable people out there who have your back,” Babcock said.
Three years later, the bridge and the artwork are finished, brushstroke by brushstroke, rebar by rebar.
The new Gerald Desmond bridge opened to the domestic traffic on October 5, 2020.
“Now that the bridge is completed, I miss working with my friends,” Babcock said. “After our painting exhibition comes down on May 1, some of us hope to get together to paint landscapes when our work schedules allow.”