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Davis

Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

New mosaic bench built to commemorate Bob Bowen

The bench is positioned at G Street Plaza: the historic starting point of Davis

By RACHEL SHEY city@theaggie.org

Local sculptor Wes Horn has created a new mosaic bench at G Street Plaza to honor Citizen of the Year Bob Bowen. The bench depicts Bowen riding a high wheel bicycle as well as some iconic Davis sights like red double-decker Unitrans buses and scads of bicyclists zooming by on a road. 

Horn has worked on such projects before and mentioned that he aimed to bring a story to life visually through his mosaic work.  

“I’ve done a number of pieces memorializing some members of Davis and others around the state, and that’s really rewarding when you have a person to base a piece of art off of and a life of contributions to the town in Bob’s case,” Horn said. “Generally, my goal in a project like this is to both memorialize but also tell some kind of story about that person.” 

Bowen has his fingerprints on so many parts of Davis, so it was no challenge for Horn to think of appropriate images to put on the many sides of the bench. 

“Because he had such an impact around town, it was really easy for people who knew [Bob] around town to bring me a list of images, like the city flower and the light trees that Bob headed up every holiday,” Horn said. 

The bench is “upcycled,” according to Horn, as the base was originally made out of bricks and was part of another structure that has since been removed. It is now fully covered and resurfaced. 

“The bench was originally the base foundation of what was the Davis Ace Hardware sign,” Horn said. “That was a brick foundation with signage advertising Davis Ace Hardware. We took off the top steel signage part and reutilized the brick foundation and built a frame and cast concrete to construct the backrest and raise it up to a comfortable sitting height.” 

Bowen came to Davis in high school and thoroughly enjoyed the town, contributing to it ever since. When he first arrived in Davis, it was a much smaller town, with far fewer houses and a smaller population. 

“I was going to high school in Fresno, and my dad, who was involved in retail, was transferred to become a district or regional manager for a retail chain,” Bowen said. “We moved from Fresno to Davis in 1968, and the reason we ended up in Davis, thank goodness, was that my mom was doing doctorate-level work in Spanish Literature.”

Bowen eventually attended UC Davis and was in charge of organizing Picnic Day, beginning his long career in event planning. Organizing parties for thousands of people was one of his special skills. One of Bowen’s favorite events was the Children’s Nutcracker, which he started in 1977. 

“The event that provided the most satisfaction is creating what is now called the Davis Children’s Nutcracker,” Bowen said. “I thought maybe we could do something to get involved in community theater, and we had the Veterans Memorial Theater that was underused in December, and we had recreation staff that worked in the traditional summer program. We adapted a draft of a classroom play based on the Nutcracker and put anyone who showed up in the show.”

The Nutcracker continues to this day. Some of the children who first participated in the play are now seeing their grandkids in the play, according to Bowen. 

“Now all these years later, it’s still going,” Bowen marveled. “The fact that it’s had an impact on several generations of kids, it’s probably the event that I’ve become most closely identified with over the years, and it’s probably impacted the lives of thousands of families over the years.”

City Councilman Dan Carson commented that Bowen was a great contributor to the city of Davis during his 43-year career as city event planner. 

“Bob Bowen greatly deserves this recognition,” Carson said. “He was a jack-of-all-trades for our city government, helping to coordinate important celebrations like the Fourth of July in Community Park and endlessly volunteering for tasks like researching and sharing Davis’ history in full costume for our centennial celebration. He really is our Citizen of the Year.”

Even though Bowen has retired, Carson expects to see him around quite a bit more in the future. 

​​”I would say we will miss him, but I ran into him recently helping out at a charity food distribution event and fully expect to see him around on a regular basis,” Carson said.

Bowen plans on remaining active in the community, still volunteering at the Bicycling Hall of Fame. He will also be riding a high wheel bike on Picnic Day.

Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org

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