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Alumnus Jake Janz Designs Statue to Commemorate Fallen Lifeguard

Fresno native designs statue commemorating lifeguard’s sacrifice

Innovative technology turned Fresno-born product designer and branding artist Jake Janz ('05 Illustration) into a sculptor of public monuments.

Janz created a 9-foot-tall stainless steel lifeguard that scans the Newport Beach horizon looking for distressed swimmers, just as his brother-in-law, Ben Carlson, did the day he died two years ago.

Thousands of people, including Carlson’s family, friends and fellow lifeguards, gathered for the unveiling of the statue on July 6 to commemorate the lifeguard’s sacrifice two years ago to the day. The larger-than-life statue shields the sun from his eyes with his right hand. During the unveiling, the sun’s angle made the gesture seem natural, the stainless steel glinting in the warm, pink air.

“The statue is really meaningful not only to us, but the whole community,” Janz said. “Being from Fresno, I respect the ocean, but I respect it on a whole new level seeing what lifeguards do every day.”

On July 6, 2014, Carlson leaped off a rescue boat without hesitation to help save the distressed swimmer. A heavy swell took them both under; the swimmer had been buoyed and was pulled to safety, but Carlson did not resurface.

He became the first Newport Beach lifeguard to die in the line of duty.

Janz, his wife Stephanie – who was Ben’s sister – and their two sons had the chance to spend time with Carlson during the final six months of his life when they moved to Newport Beach three years ago.

“God put us where we were right then for a reason,” Janz said. “To spend that time with Ben was really special and to be involved in this, I feel like it’s our purpose and everyone on the foundation feels the same way.”

At first, Janz wasn’t going to sculpt the statue. A product designer and branding artist by trade, he’s comfortable in a digital medium. He hadn’t sculpted since college, where he worked with clay and bronze – the old way.


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Jake Janz ('05) is a visual artist who specializes in large scale figurative sculpture. He received a BFA in Communication Arts from Otis College of Art & Design, in Los Angeles, and has been a commercial designer as well as a privately commissioned artist ever since.  Although he enjoys creating artwork through many mediums including both digital and traditional forms,  it has been his most recent work as a sculptor that combines all of his abilities and has overtaken his passion. 


Communication Arts offers a broad, cross-disciplinary learning experience for students interested in pursuing Graphic Design, Illustration, and all disciplines that focus on effective and arresting visual communication.