By Neena Strichart
Dozens of locals gathered last Saturday morning at the Rosie the Riveter Park, 3695 Clark Ave., to witness the unveiling of the newest addition to the park– a Rosie the Riveter bas relief, one of the city’s newest public art projects. Fifth District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske served as mistress of ceremonies for the event that included entertainment, somber presentations, introductions and “thank you’s” galore.
Beginning with a welcome and introduction by Schipske, the crowd was informed of the purpose for the gathering– the big reveal of the new art piece created by Raymond Kaskey for the park. The councilmember told of her search for the perfect art piece and her dilemma of deciding “what kind of art we should put in the park.” According to Schipske, while the Rosie the Riveter Park in Richmond, California, focuses on women who worked on the war efforts in the shipyards, she wanted this particular park to focus on those who worked in the aircraft industry, especially those from Douglas Aircraft.
Schipske spoke of searching for art that would be “keeping with the theme– a calm park, not a frantic park.” After locating online what she believed was the perfect piece, she went to Washington, D.C. to meet with Raymond Kaskey, an artist who had designed 24 bas reliefs for the National World War II Memorial in the nation’s capitol.
The relief Schipske fell in love with was one which depicts women working diligently on the building of various aircraft. “This is spectacular,” she said of her reaction to seeing the art piece in person– the piece which she envisioned in a scaled-down version that would be perfect to adorn a wall at the park.
When telling more about the artist, she described Kaskey as “just a wonderful, nice guy,” and boasted of his talent when she said that the facial expressions of the women depicted in the artist’s rendering were “taken from real people.” Smiling, Schipske said [this park] is the only place outside of D.C. that has this [bas relief].
After a group flag salute, singing of the national anthem, which was performed by Golden Sands Choral Group, and a dedication prayer led by pastor and 9th District Councilmember Steve Neal, members of the Millikan High School Army JROTC unveiled the bas relief.
Other parts of the ceremony included a reading of the names of 12 Long Beach troops who had recently lost their lives serving in either Iran or Afghanistan. Andrew Cruz of the Marine Corps and Rikki Lynn Duco of the Coast Guard shared in reading the names aloud. A moment of silence was then observed after the playing of a recording of Billy Ray Cyrus singing “Some Gave All.”
Schipske then thanked those responsible for the financial assistance with the park’s amenities, which include Southern California Edison, Toyota Auto Body and Toyota Motor Sales, Supervisor Don Knabe, and Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, whose own mother, according to Schipske, “was a Rosie.”
Schipske also spoke in glowing terms of money donated by the California State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (CSSDAR) and allowed the organization’s former state regent, Nancy Alexander, to address the crowd. “Honoring our Rosies was one of my projects during this administration,” Alexander said. “Funds were raised by approximately 8,000 California DAR members to support an artistic sculpture, originally planned for the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, where the Kaiser shipyards were located during World War II, in my part of the state. Since this park encompasses several governmental entities, the project has been slow to develop.
“DAR member Sharon Meigs suggested that since this Rosie the Riveter Park in Long Beach was moving ahead in its development, the DAR funds might be better used here. Hence, the members of the State Society redirected these funds to this Rosie the Riveter Park in Long Beach.” Alexander went on to tell how the actual monies had been raised.
“Another California DAR member conceived the idea of collecting the stories of our DAR members who were Rosies. She and her committee spent hundreds of hours collecting, compiling, and editing to produce this wonderful book of stories, call Rosie’s Daughters. [Ed. Note: the books were later published and sold, which resulted in the monies donated to the Long Beach Rosie the Riveter Foundation.] Daughters of the American Revolution member Carol Bachand took on the responsibility of representing the sculpture project of the state regent in this park. She has worked to see that the creation and installation of this artistic sculpture has come to fruition. Thus, today, with a major financial contribution from the California State Society Daughters of the American Revolution, we are pleased to present this bas relief of Rosie, a creation of artist Raymond Kaskey.”
The event was concluded with a George M. Cohen medley performed by Golden Sands Choral Group and an up-close viewing by the audience members of the new art bas relief.