The City of Palo Alto Public Art Program is committed to contributing to the intellectual, emotional, and creative life of the Palo Alto community by creating engaging art experiences and dynamic public spaces for Palo Alto residents and visitors. The Program operates in accordance with Chapter 2.26 of Palo Alto Municipal Code to provide opportunities for the placement of permanent and temporary site-specific public art projects in municipal projects across Palo Alto. Additionally, the Program oversees the implementation of the Ordinance requirement to incorporate public art in private development projects. The Public Art Commission (PAC) reviews and advises the Public Art Program on selection, placement, and care of public art throughout the City of Palo Alto. To get the latest news on the public art projects and activities taking place around Palo Alto, subscribe to our monthly e-news.
The Palo Alto Public Art Program promotes the highest caliber of artwork, commissioning memorable public artworks and experiences that stimulate discussion and thoughtful reflection, celebrating Palo Alto’s character and enhancing civic pride and sense of place.
Public art reflects Palo Alto’s people, diverse neighborhoods, the innovative and global character of its businesses and academic institutions, and the beauty of its natural environment.
About the Collection
The City collection of public art is comprised of approximately 100 permanently sited works and approximately 200 portable works of art in a diverse range of media. All works are commissioned and acquired through a public process. The portable collection features works by artists who have lived, worked, exhibited in, or been inspired by Palo Alto. The artworks are exhibited throughout City facilities and accessible to public on a daily basis. From the land art in the Baylands to the more figurative works, the collection of permanently sited and integrated artworks reflects the diverse interests and populations of Palo Alto. It includes emerging talent as well as well established, world renowned artists such as Fletcher Benton, Betty Gold, Gene Flores and Bruce Beasley. Each artwork is selected with the particular site and audience in mind. View the Public Art Collection Map to explore all locations of permanently-sited artworks in Palo Alto.
Site-specific Functional Sculpture Installed at City Hall’s King Plaza The City of Palo Alto Public Art installed The Running Wall, a site-specific functional sculpture by artist Aaron Lee Benson in front of City Hall on September 20. Constructed of two by fours, the piece begins with a functional bench connected to a rippling low wall that serpentines between the trees, then culminates in a circular sculptural element at the other end of the installation. All lumber will be donated to Habitat for Humanity at the conclusion of the installation this spring. The Running Wall was conceived by artist Lee Benson after hearing feedback from the Public Art Master Plan outreach efforts about the community's strong desire for more functional art and more site-specific work. Benson and staff focused on a way to bridge the plaza hardscape and the formal alley of trees with a strong sculptural piece that would break the strict geometry of the plaza.
Conversation by Narduli Studio launched in City Hall in January 2016
Susan Narduli's Conversation activates the renovated lobby, inviting visitor interaction and offering a unique artistic experience. The new media interactive artwork is always in flux, as posts and comments appear and change throughout the day. Because it is as much a collaborative tool as a display, it encourages participation. Conversation celebrates freedom of speech and expression. It is the voice of our community making up the ever-changing visual narrative.
Confluence is a 14-foot public water sculpture by Palo Alto native Michael Szabo installed on the newly renovated California Avenue near the Caltrain Station.
Confluence welcomes residents, shoppers, commuters and visitors to the new California Avenue. The artwork consists of several gently curved bronze elements with water cascading down the face of the sculpture and splashing on the ground. The dry pump system will recirculate the water to the fountain only losing a small amount to evaporation. Originally commissioned in 2011, the installation of Confluence was postponed to coincide with the California Avenue Streetscape Project.
Brilliance by Joe O'Connell and Blessing Hancock
Brilliance is a site-specific public art installation by Joe O'Connell and Blessing Hancock funded through the City of Palo Alto's Municipal Percent for Art Funds. The artwork was installed in the plaza between the renovated Rinconada Library and Palo Alto Art Center. The artists created a family of six sculptures surrounded by text collected from members of the Palo Alto community in a variety of languages reflecting Palo Alto's cultural diversity. Text on each artwork addresses physical, spiritual, artistic, and intellectual growth. Each sculpture features an interior LED light that is touch-sensitive, allowing viewers to change the lighting colors and shadow on the trees and walkways at night.
Public Art Abounds at the new Mitchell Park Library & Community Center
The Public Art Program, in consultation with a variety of stakeholders, formulated an overall plan for the art at the new Mitchell Park Library & Community Center. The four art pieces throughout the facility encompass a diversity of artists and styles.
At the entrance to the facility is an artwork by Bay Area artist Bruce Beasley, whose work is in many major museum collections in the U.S. and aboard, including SF MoMA, Oakland Museum, The Guggenheim Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The piece created for Palo Alto, Arpeggio V, is an arch-like granite form that makes a beautiful gateway to the new community center and library. While the sculpture does not move, it implies motion and interaction between the shapes that it captures. The piece resonates with the programming of Palo Alto's diverse community and the varied activities taking place at the new facility. The granite from the sculpture is echoed in the architecture and landscaping throughout the complex. for more on Bruce Beasley visit www.brucebeasley.com. Image by Palo Alto Pulse.
Artist Roger Stoller, of Portola Valley, was selected to create a signature piece for the entryway of the library. The artwork, Cloud Forest, was inspired by El Palo Alto and the coastal redwoods that rely on the coastal wings to spread their seeds for future generations. Cloud Forest is a latticework of stainless steel that appears to flow through the glass entrance to the library and continue inside. Stoller writes, "Just as a book can offer entry into another world, Cloud Forest, will transform the library entrance into a steel-forest portal of abstract shape and light."
Artist Mark Verlander created the dynamic 16-panel mural, Follow Your Heart, after meeting with youth in the community and asking them what living in Palo Alto means to them. The individual hanging panels, installed in the new teen center, may be rearranged and reversed to show different images on the back.
A series of six shiny owls in two poses by Dallas-based artist Brad Oldham, Whimsy & Wise, greet visitors entering the library and community center site.
The sculptures physically reflect the environment around them while creating a protective vehicular barrier for visitors to the library and community center. The artist was inspired to create playful sculpture that youth would enjoy interacting with. Oldham says, "Each kid walking in to the library will see his reflection and become part of the sculpture."
We created a Mitchell Park Public Art Map which shows the locations and provides descriptions of seven artworks throughout the park.
Dynamic Musical Artwork Installed at City Hall's King Plaza The City of Palo Alto Public Art program installed Chime, an interactive sound sculpture by artists Dan Gottwald and Scott Watkins, on May 16, 2016 in front of City Hall. The multiple panel sculpture arrived on King Plaza between the trees remained on display through early September. Intentionally designed and built for the physical interaction by multiple users at once, Chime invited the public to create their own musical experience. By pushing large curved panels that make up the outer walls of the sculpture and activating the pendulums hanging inside, participants were able to create their own melodic sounds. On July 21, Artist Dan Gottwald and electronic musician Will Gluck performed a piece specially composed for Chime in a live musical performance on King Plaza. Gottwald and Gluck performed the collaborative production that showcased the analog instrument of Chime's sounds with elements of electronic music in new and innovative ways.
“Though there is no electronic component of Chime, it is built to respond to touch…A simple push on one large wooden panel set into motion a series of sounds, an exploration of connectivity and smiles.” Dan Gottwald
Artworks Installed at City Hall’s King Plaza Palo Alto Public Art Program kicked off a series of rotating temporary public art installations on King Plaza with Bruce Beasley’s Rondo I. The result of years of experimentation with shape and form, Beasley created the Rondo series with the intention of creating art on a large scale that feels effortless and light; something that frames and compliments the surrounding environment. Over the next two years, selected artists will activate King Plaza in new and exciting ways, offering visual, musical, and participatory experiences lasting from a few months up to one year in length. Located in front of City Hall, Palo Alto’s King Plaza is the ideal location to establish a sustainable venue for public discourse through the arts. During the current public art master planning community outreach process, engagement with more than 200 residents has revealed a lot of support for more temporary public art offering new and unexpected public art experiences.
Universal Woman by sculptor Nathan Oliveira returns to the Palo Alto Art Center Universal Woman, a large-scale bronze work by internationally acclaimed artist Nathan Oliveira, was installed at the Palo Alto Art Center's Sculpture Garden in May.
Throughout his life, Oliveira (1928-2010) maintained strong ties to the City of Palo Alto. He taught at Stanford University. The artist's local studio was located on the corner of Emerson and Hamilton in downtown Palo Alto for 25 years. The Palo Alto Art Center exhibited Nathan Oliveira's work in 11 group exhibitions since 1970s, and featured the last significant solo exhibition of the artist's work before his death and the first exhibition focusing entirely on the artist's sculpture, Nathan Oliveira: The Painter's Bronzes in 2008. This exhibition - unparalleled in its sized and scope - included many of the artist's last works, in addition to bronzes produced as far back as 1963. This critically lauded show was accompanied by a monograph funded by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation. Featured in the exhibition Nathan Oliveira: The Painter's Bronzes, Universal Woman was temporarily sited in the Art Center's historic courtyard for two years following the exhibition as a long-term loan. At the start of the Art Center's renovation, the work was returned to the Oliveira family. In 2013, Joseph Oliveira and Lisa Lamoure generously donated Universal Woman to the City's public art collection.
The Permanent Collection Maintenance Program
The Pubic Art Program is hard at work undertaking an ambitious maintenance and restoration project for the permanent collection. Many of our artworks are being cleaned and receiving preventative treatment to protect them from the elements. Some of the works that have received more aggressive treatment or repair are: Albuquerque by Gayle Wagner, Rrrun by Marta Thoma, and Nude in Steel by Hans Wehrli. If you notice vandalism or artworks in disrepair, please call the Public Art office immediately at 650-329-2227. Thank you!