A bronze sculpture of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia’s right hand, missing two-thirds of his middle finger, has been installed at the Santa Barbara Bowl. The sculpture is located in the Jerry Garcia Glen, which was officially dedicated during a private reception Wednesday evening, November 10.
The glen was renovated in summer 2009, and the bronze hand installed in early September. Just days after the Bowl’s last show of the season, they welcomed one of Garcia’s four daughters, Annabelle Garcia-McLean, to the official dedication ceremony.
The 75-pound, 18-inch-tall bronze hand rests eye-level atop a small boulder in the wooded glen’s stone courtyard, about 150 feet from its gated entrance. The sculpture, created by artist Tom White, was commissioned by Scott Brittingham, who is chairman of the American Classic Campaign for the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation. The foundation raises money for improvements and beautification. Brittingham donated $1 million to the glen through his own Brittingham Family Foundation. A self-described Deadhead —a follower and fan of the Grateful Dead—Brittingham saw Garcia live in numerous shows between 1978 and 1994, before Garcia died from a heart attack in ‘95.
“Other than his smile and his beard and his long hair, his hand is one of the most distinctive things about him,” Brittingham said. “He’s one of our treasured icons and he played this venue.” Those who know and love Garcia will immediately recognize his guitar-picking hand, Brittingham said. After a wood-chopping accident at age four, part of Garcia’s middle finger was amputated. With only half the middle digit, the hand became a known symbol for Garcia—“a little Jerry-sign,” Brittingham said.
A dedication plaque was installed on the boulder below the bronze hand, listing the bands Garcia played with, a quote from one of his songs, and several descriptions of him. These include “Cosmic Explorer,” as suggested by Garcia-McLean. “That’s how Daddy saw himself,” Brittingham recalled her saying.
Beyond donating the $1 million for the glen renovations, Brittingham also wanted to donate a sculpture. While searching for the right artist for the job, he said, “All roads led to Tom White.” Also a self-described rock and roll fan, White spent more than four months sculpting the piece. He referenced ink prints and photographs of Garcia’s hand to make it as accurate as possible, he said, right down to the wrinkles and folds of the palm. The out-of-state artist said he plans to visit Santa Barbara soon to see the sculpture in its installation.
And by the time White visits the Bowl, the improvements and beautifications there will have come even farther. The $40 million campaign project, including improvements for the stage, pavilion roof, terrace, concession area, overlook, and lower plaza, started in ’94 and should be completed within the next two years, according to Brittingham.
Currently, all $1 million donations will be matched by an anonymous donor. “The Bowl is so aesthetically pleasing and acoustically blessed,” Brittingham said, “and as we continue to improve the facility, we [will continue to get] great artists.”