Mary Fuller McChesney Estate Acquisition

Image of Mary Fuller McChesney Courtesy of the Bohemian

Image of Mary Fuller McChesney Courtesy of the Bohemian

Image of Mary Fuller McChesney Courtesy of NYT

Image of Mary Fuller McChesney Courtesy of New York Times

Various Works By Mary Fuller McChesney at her former residence

Various Works By Mary Fuller McChesney at her former residence

Project Summary

Sculptor, author, and art historian Mary Fuller McChesney, who lived and worked in the Petaluma area for several decades, passed away on May 4, 2022, in Petaluma. McChesney’s legacy as a renowned, local, female artist of the mid-century continues in her sculptures included as part of her estate. McChesney’s friends, neighbors, and estate managers describe the artist’s wishes for her works to be displayed for public enjoyment. The Public Art program has taken interest in an opportunity to preserve the legacy of this local, influential artist by collecting and displaying McChesney’s works for residents of and visitors to Petaluma. By acquiring works from McChesney’s estate, the Public Art Committee (PPAC) wishes to educate our community about a unique and prominent voice in Petaluma’s creative community and history, in addition to honoring McChesney’s wishes and preserving her legacy within the City's public art collection.


Since October 2022, the PPAC has worked with City staff and estate managers to discuss acquiring selected works from the McChesney estate. At the January, February, and March 2023 PPAC regular meetings, staff facilitated the process of acquiring and selecting works with the Committee, who were interested in collecting approximately 15 to 25 artworks from the estate, contingent on timeline and budget estimates and other logistics from the acquisition process. The PPAC anticipated associated expenses for this project, including but not limited to purchase, conservation, transportation, installation, permitting, and labor.

On April 27, 2022, the PPAC unanimously recommended a $100,000 project expenditure for the acquisition, funded through the Public Art Fund, to allocate funds towards the associated acquisition expenses to add selected works to the City's public art collection. Council will be reviewing this action at an upcoming City Council hearing for final required approval to use Public Art funds for these purposes, which is anticipated for summer 2023.

About the Artist, Mary Fuller McChesney

Born Mary Fuller in 1922 in Wichita, Kansas, McChesney grew up in Stockton, California on her family’s farm and moved to the Bay Area to study philosophy at UC Berkeley. McChesney became a self-taught artist and worked as a welder during World War II at the Richmond Shipyard. In 1949, Mary Fuller married a fellow artist, printmaker, and teacher Robert McChesney. From the radical political pressures of the 1950s anti-communist movement, McChesney and her husband faced increasing pressures from society and work that eventually pushed the artists to move abroad to an artist colony in Ajijic, Mexico, where they lived for the next few years. During her time in Mexico, McChesney discovered Mayan and Aztec mythology that became the theme of her work, which until then was primarily influenced by modern abstract works. McChesney moved back to the Bay Area with her husband in 1952, settling on Sonoma Mountain, where they would live for the next several decades. McChesney developed a unique medium for her sculptures; a mixture of concrete and vermiculite that would be sculpted before drying, forcing McChesney to work quickly. Many of McChesney's works were not displayed beyond her home on Sonoma Mountain because of their size, scale, and weight.

Project Details

Title: Mary Fuller McChesney Estate
Artist: Mary Fuller McChesney (1922 - 2022)
Location:  Multiple Locations Pending
Date: 2022 - present
Medium:  sculpture of concrete and vermiculite, bronze

Project Documents

Staff Contact

David Ward
Public Art Specialist
[email protected]

Planning Division
11 English Street
Petaluma, CA

Close window