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Existing Public Art in SJC

Below is a sampling of some of the large sculptures, murals and fountains and historical depictions already commissioned in San Juan Capistrano.

The Alliance for San Juan Art advocates an initiative to commission and place more Art in the Public Square in San Juan Capistrano that is accessible by the public and very visible. Temporary art should also be a component of Art in the Public Square. Such an initiative requires broad support and passionate advocates to make it a reality.

While large artworks are not unknown in San Juan Capistrano, they are mostly commissioned in the courtyards of business plazas and are hence not visible except to lessees and patrons of the plazas. “Binding Contact” aka the “Riders on the Hill” is an exception. It stands in blazing glory on a Del Obispo hillside, visible to all who pass by.


On a Hillside in San Juan “Binding Contract”

Commissioned by Dan Almquist for his property along Del Obispo, this beautiful full-size sculpture portrays the essence of San Juan’s equestrian heritage. More sculptures of this size with varying themes would capture the economic and cultural benefits that are the essence of such works.
Location - Across Del Obispo from Armstrong Gardens.

About the Artist


Bradford Williams’ sculpture studio is in Prescott, AZ. He is one of the most sought-after artists of the Western bronze genre. He is self-taught, having spent nights sculpting after his day job.  He started full time in 1991.


Photo by Steve Behmerwohld

In the Ortega Business Center “Untitled’

This 1981 sculpture consisting of images cast in eight tilt-up concrete relief panels in the center of a fountain is located in the midst of this commercial center and visible to its patrons. The artist is currently Director of the LA County Fair art exhibits. It is also neglected and in need of repair.
Location - Center of the office complex across from Bad to the Bone

About the Artist


Tony Sheets was born into an Arts Community. His father was Millard Sheets, head of the Art Dept. at Scripps College. Tony was an apprentice for sculptor Albert Stewart. He studied under Jean and Arthur Ames who created “Earth, Fire, Water and the Potter”. He collaborated with other artists to develop a process to create cast concrete wall sculptures. Until he retired he was director of Fine arts at the LA County Fair.


Ortega Cottages on Calle Arroyo "Untitled"

This is a beautiful life-size rendering in different shades of concrete. It is visible to patrons of the business center. The elements have not been kind to some parts of the sculpture and it is in need of repair. A description plaque would also be welcome.
Location - The midst of the Ortega Cottages on Calle Arroyo




At Camino Real Playhouse “St. George and the Dragon”

A few years ago, painted horses appeared around town. However they were meant to be sold and only 1 or 2 remain. This one was mounted next to the Camino Real Playhouse and recently removed. Another is located in the Rancho Capistrano Winery.
Location - Moved to artists home in San Clemente.

About the Artist


Trisha Lynne Wilson is the artist of the dragon horse, which stood in front of the Camino Real Playhouse for 3 ½ years.  She bought an unpainted fiberglass horse on line , did not have a patron and no one commissioned the artwork. She says: “A  few years ago fiberglass horses appeared all over SJC. It is my understanding that the the donors suggested themes. At the last minute, I entered a felt tip painted sketch for the butterfly horse.

“So I decided to paint my own horse. I found a religious inspiration from the 2000-year-old myth/legend of St. George and the Dragon.  The image of the dragon wraps around the horse; St. George with his lance drawn is located near the neck. The image of the princess is located on the nose of the horse.”




In the Courtyard of the Inn at the Mission

This fountain is crafted with beautiful tile arrangements and greets the visitors to the Inn at the Mission.  It is one of four fountains at the Inn.



At the Franciscan Promenade

Although hidden from public view, this fountain, unlike others, in San Juan, is operating and looks well cared for.



Depictions & Interpretive Panels

“It is a policy of the City Council that new development projects are required to provide an artistic interpretation of the City’s heritage which portray relevant representations of historic events and are accessible to the general public” - Source: SJC City Council


The following photos are some of the depictions and interpretive panels in the downtown area:


Stroscher Grove

Located at the corner of Ortega and Del Obispo is Stroscher Grove. Among the young orange trees, you will find the three pedestals showcasing ceramic tile panels. The three triptychs depict the history of the early settlers in the Capistrano Valley: The first panel illustrates the Ajachemen people, who arrived in the Valley ca. 8,000 BC,  the second panel features the Spanish missionaries and rancheros, 1776- mid 19th Century,  and the third panel portrays settlers from the United States and Europe, mid to late 19th Century, represented by Frederica and Wilhelm Stroschein, who settled the land in 1887.
Location -  The corner nearest the Inn at Ortega and Del Obispo

About the Artist

Designed by Stroscher Family, created by MELISSA THOMSON AND PATRICIA WATERMAN

Melissa and Patricia opened The Ceramics Studio, SJC in 2011, which today offers ceramic classes for teens and adults. Melissa earned her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at Cal State Northridge and Patricia has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.


At Rancho Capistrano Winery

The plaque says the building was a home and restaurant and built by the Arbonies who were from the Basque region of Spain. It was known as Nick’s Café.



Historical Depiction at the Franciscan Plaza

The plaque describes the colorful history of this site. In the early 1880s, homes for prominent early founders of San Juan were built similar to the Manual Garcia Adobe still standing to the South.  The site was the scene of some “firsts” in San Juan including a telephone switchboard and electrical generator


By the Inn at the

Mission El Camino Real -

A story of the Missions

Depicted is the story of the 700 miles of El Camino Real and how it linked the 21 California Missions from San Diego to Sonoma. Did you know that “The King’s Highway” was strung with over 450 iconic Mission Bells along its route.  A very informative plaque indeed.


Posted on the Mission Wall

Mission San Juan Capistrano by the OC Historical Society “The Mission welcomes people from all over the world and a good proportion of the visitors are International. Mission San Juan, having been founded in 1776, holds the ruins of the "Great Stone Church”.

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