Past Exhibitions

Under Water | January 21 - April 8, 2023

Text that reads Under Water in gradients of blue and grey  c


Under Water

January 21-April 8, 2023

Under Water explores the rich undercurrents in the water around us, through work in a wide range of media by a diverse collection of artists. The exhibition addresses diverse topics around water—what is in our water, how much we consume, how climate change has impacted water, how humans have sought to control water sources and to what effect, and the symbolic role of water in moving people literally and metaphorically.

The artists in Under Water explore a range of concerns lurking under the surface, bringing them to light. In this exhibition, we will find an exploration of the significance of water as a medium for migration and the role of water in environmental justice. Some artists use research, mapping and measuring data to share perspectives on water use, facts, and effects. Works in the exhibition help us experience the impact of sea level rise and realize the environmental benefits of marshlands. Other artists creatively address water pollution, plastic waste, and the impact of climate change on ocean temperatures and ecosystems. 

Artists in the exhibition include: Kim Anno, Barbara Boissevain, Sukey Bryan, Judith Content, Jeffrey Downing, Ana Teresa Fernández, Linda Gass, Tanja Geis, Liz Hickok, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Hughen/Starkweather, Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, Trinh Mai, Danae Mattes, John Sabraw, Adrien Segal, Joan Takayama-Ogawa.

Under Water is a component of “Climate Connections,” a year-long series highlighting the power of art to promote reflection, dialogue and action on climate change. Climate Change—Protection and Adaptation is one of the City of Palo Alto Council Priorities for 2022. It reflects the City’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, outlined in its Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP). Updated in early 2020, the plan develops the strategies needed to meet our goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030 and other community-wide sustainability goals.

Visit the Under Water exhibition page here.


Fire Transforms | September 17 - December 10, 2022

Fire Transforms

Fire Transforms logo

September 17-December 10, 2022

artist standing before a wall of forest wildfire

Jeff Frost,  King Fire Self Portrait, 2018. Inkjet print on archival paper, edition 1/1, 46” x 68”. Image courtesy of the artist.

In recent years, “megafires” in California have transformed our lives and our landscapes. “Fire season” used to mean a predictable annual period of hot, dry weather, low humidity, and brown hillsides, from August to November, when fire danger was historically highest. Now, fire season can start in early spring and keep burning into the new year. We may feel puzzled and afraid, struck with “climate fatigue,” an underlying feeling of dread that the endless cycle of wildfires will never end. This connects us to bigger pictures of environmental change around the world. How can we transform our fear, sadness, anger, and confusion into comfort and clarity?

Thankfully, we have artists to help us explore, reflect, and try to make sense of these new realities. In Fire Transforms, artists creating a wide range of work nudge us into new ways of “seeing” fire. Photographers face wildfire directly, revealing the flames up-close, or the detailed remains of a burned home. In weavings, drawings, and sculptures, artists show how science can calm us with knowledge. In miniature scenes in tiny suitcases, we learn how firefighters fight and prevent fires. In paintings of nature’s comeback, we see how black changes to green over time. In architectural drawings, house plans present options for rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods and towns. And in fire-hued abstractions, in paper and wire mesh screens, and in paintings of Native American fire dances, fire becomes a creative tool for reflection and beauty. All these artists engage curiosity, wonder, and attention acknowledging how fire’s transformative power works through its cycles of destruction and creativity.

This exhibition is guest curated by Rina C. Faletti, founding curator of Art Responds. 

To visit the exhibition website, follow this link:  Fire Transforms website.

RESTART | June 25 - August 20, 2023



June 25-August 20, 2022

Location: Main Art Center Gallery

RESTART logo in dark blue capital letters with a light-blue swish under the letters


How can we restart and rebuild after the pandemic and the related personal and community crises? Now more than ever, we crave opportunities for healing, connection, and restoration. And we acknowledge the vital power of art as a tool for promoting resilience, hope, and renewal. 

RESTART showcases how art can promote healing and restoration. The first juried exhibition in more than a decade at the Palo Alto Art Center, this exhibition continues themes explored earlier in the year with the exhibition Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration (on view January 21-May 21, 2022). The exhibition includes work in a wide range of media by artists from throughout Northern California. 

RESTART’s juror is Patricia Hickson, the Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Hickson oversees the post-war and contemporary art collection and acquisitions, organizes special exhibitions, and leads the MATRIX program, a series of changing exhibitions of contemporary art. Her thirty-plus MATRIX projects—three per year—have featured an international roster of artists. Hickson reflects, “What a delight it has been to serve as the juror for Palo Alto Art Center’s RESTART exhibition, which has reconnected me to the Bay Area’s distinctive contemporary art scene since working at the San Jose Museum of Art twenty years ago. In addition, the show’s relevant and timely theme—the transformative power of art during challenging times—serves to illustrate humanity’s strength, connection, and engagement through the visual arts.” 


Heidi Alonzo Fiorenza Gorini Melissa Mahoney
Ric Ambrose Ricky Gumbrecht Erin McCluskey Wheeler
Janis Anton Ellen Gust Zoe Mosko
Erica Barajas Michael Hall Mundi
Katya Bloshkina Charlotta Hauksdottir Beril Or
Shirley Bunger Alexis Javellana Hill Kaytea Petro
Brian Corral Joyce Hsu Ferris Plock
Valerie Corvin Peter Ivanoff Misty Potter
Daisy Crane Laura Johnston Priyanka Rana
Adrienne Defendi Sarah Klein Alexander Rohrig
John Eames Sammy Koh Miki Shim and Lance Rutter
Donna Fenstermaker Danym Kwon Dennis Sopczynski
Patrick Fenton Matthaus Lam Nina Temple
Janey Fritsche Charles Lee Badri Valian
Kristin Lindseth

RESTART exhibition overview with juror Patricia Hickson


Peninsula Photo Contest Exhibition | June 11 - August 20, 2023

The Peninsula Photo Contest Exhibition

June 11-August 20, 2022

Location: Meeting Room

Black and white photo of man standing on promenade in SF

Christopher Stevens-Yu, The Lost Years, San Francisco, California, 2021. Adult Portrait Winner and Best in Show. 

This exhibition features a wide range of photographs by the winners and honorable mentions in this year’s The Six Fifty 2022 Peninsula Photo Contest. Photographs on display include adult and youth winners and honorable mentions in six visual categories: abstract, landscape, moments, wildlife, travel, and portrait. 

Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration | January 22 - May 21, 2022

Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration

January 22 - May 21, 2022

Creative Attention Art and Community Restoration logo

Lettering by Christine Wong Yap. 


Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration features the work of 18 artists from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. The exhibition, curated by guest curator Ann Trinca, showcases alternatives to our chaotic world of stress and anxiety, through practices of mending, healing, restoration, belonging, sustainability, and resiliency. 

Some of the work included in the exhibition looks inward—addressing past personal struggles with illness, addiction, and loss. Other artists turn their attention outward to connect with those who are suffering and to find solidarity in our shared adversity. Universally, what begins in the studio alters the life of the artist, who in turn brings that change to the world.  

Participating Artists: Johnna Arnold, Lynn Beldner, Wes Bruce, Caledonia Curry (Swoon), Paz de la Calzada, Angela Hennessy, Alexander Hernandez, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Jeremiah Jenkins, Corita Kent, Tucker Nichols, Marcel Pardo Ariza, Maria Paz, Jessi Rado, Leah Rosenberg, Lisa Solomon, Esther Traugot, and Christine Wong Yap.

Exhibition website

The enhanced website for the exhibition includes individual pages for each artist, images with alt text, and audio files with visual descriptions of the works of art in the exhibition, as well as videos and other resources. 

Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Arts.

IMLS logo     NEA logo 

We would like to acknowledge Pamela and David Hornik for their special gift to support the artists for public and educational programs.

The Art of Disability Culture | September 11 - December 11, 2021

The Art of Disability Culture

September 11-December 11, 2021

Self-portrait of a woman sitting in a wheelchair with art-nouveau inspired background

Michaela Oteri, Self-portrait, 2020. Digital print. Courtesy of the artist. 


At the heart of The Art of Disability Culture exhibition, curated by guest curator Fran Osborne, is a robust celebration of the diverse, personal, and infinitely varied “disability experience.” Every artist featured has one or more disabilities, whether visible or invisible, and the exhibition centers upon their creativity, vulnerability, and unique perspectives. Work in the exhibition includes traditional portraiture, mixed-media pieces, tactile paintings, ceramics, an interactive labyrinth experience, digital portraiture, video, installation art, and a large site-specific sculpture.

The Art of Disability Culture 
also provides a safe space for the community to come together and reflect upon the pandemic with a greater understanding of how disability culture can strengthen our communities through the practices of interdependence, accessibility, and inclusion. 

The enhanced website for the exhibition includes individual pages for each artist, images with alt text, and audio files with visual descriptions of the works of art in the exhibition, as well as videos and other resources. 

The Art of Disability Culture was made possible with funding provided by California Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Visit We would also like to acknowledge Pamela and David Hornik and Magical Bridge for their support.


California Humanities logo


The Black Index | May 1 - August 14, 2021

The Black Index

May 1 - August 14, 2021

 Mugshot portrait of Alberta James by Lava Thomas

Lava Thomas, Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Alberta J. James, 2018, Graphite and Conté pencil on paper, 47 x 33 ¼ inches, Collection of Doree Friedman.


The Palo Alto Art Center is pleased to present The Black Index, a group exhibition featuring the work of Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas.

The artists featured in The Black Index build upon the tradition of Black self representation as an antidote to colonialist images. Using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture, and digital technology to transform the recorded image, these artists question our reliance on photography as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and understanding. Their works offer an alternative practice—a Black index—that still serves as a finding aid for information about Black subjects, but also challenges viewers’ desire for classification.

The works in The Black Index make viewers aware of their own expectations of Black figuration by interrupting traditional epistemologies of portraiture through unexpected and unconventional depictions. These works image the Black body through a conceptual lens that acknowledges the legacy of Black containment that is always present in viewing strategies. The approaches used by Delgado, Henry, Hinkle, Kaphar, Lovell, and Thomas suggest understandings of Blackness and the racial terms of our neo-liberal condition that counter legal and popular interpretations and, in turn, offer a paradigmatic shift within Black visual culture.

The Black Index is curated by Bridget R. Cooks, Associate Professor, Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History, University of California, Irvine. Exhibition and tour organized by Sarah Watson, Chief Curator, Hunter College Art Galleries, New York in collaboration with the University Art Galleries at UC Irvine, Palo Alto Art Center, and Art Galleries at Black Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

Lead support for The Black Index is provided by The Ford Foundation with additional support by UCI Confronting Extremism Program, Getty Research Institute, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, Carol and Arthur Goldberg, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College, Joan Lazarus Fellowship program at Hunter College, Pamela and David Hornik, Loren and Mike Gordon, University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Applied Materials Foundation, Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, UCI Humanities Center, Department of African American Studies, Department of Art History, The Reparations Project, and the UC Irvine Black Alumni Chapter. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit

Associated Public Programs: 

Friday Night at the Art Center recording, with a virtual walkthrough by exhibition curator Bridget R. Cooks, a reading of The Black Index essay by Aldo Billingslea, a redaction poetry activity with playwright Leelee Jackson, and a  presentation by Palo Alto author Julie Lythcott-Haims.

Conversation with Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Lava Thomas 

Black American Art History: People, Places, and Things lecture series

The Black Index Publication Launch

The publication is available through Hirmer Verlag and University of Chicago PressThe Black Index publication is made possible by the support of the Ford Foundation, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, and the Leubsdorf Fund at Hunter College.

Peninsula Photo Contest Exhibition | June 12 - August 14, 2021

Peninsula Photo Contest Exhibition

June 12 - August 14, 2021

An abstract spiral photo in shades of green
Tyler Wong, Curled Up, Palo Alto, CA, 2020


From a record 995 photo submissions, the 2021 Peninsula Photo Contest is proud to present 12 winners and 14 honorable mentions submitted by locals from the 6-5-0 area code. Their exceptional work will be in the Six Fifty and Palo Alto Weekly on June 11 and on display at the Palo Alto Art Center from June 12 to Aug 14.

Hundreds of locals submitted nearly 1,000 photos for this year's Peninsula Photo Contest. You can see the captivating, thought-provoking winners in the Palo Alto Weekly, on and at the Palo Alto Art Center starting June 12!

This year, 995 photos spanning six categories set a record for the largest turnout in Peninsula Photo Contest history. Congratulations to the winners and honorable mentions!

Where the Heart is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists | March 6 - April 3, 2021

Where the Heart is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists

March 6-April 3, 2021

“I am from there. I am from here. I am not there and I am not here. I have two names, which meet and part, and I have two languages. I forget which of them I dream in.”

―Mahmoud Darwish

 portrait of an individual with glasses

Zina Al-Shukri, Living Her Best Life, 2018, Gouache on paper, 30 x 22 in., Courtesy of the artist and Patricia Sweetow Gallery.


There are more foreign-born residents in Santa Clara County than in any other county in California, about 38% of the total population. In a state that has more immigrants than any other and a country than has a larger immigrant population than any other in the world, this is a truly meaningful statistic and one we should not ignore.

The artists in this exhibition inspect their identities and heal divisions using thoughtful encounters with strangers and an empowered gaze. With great confidence, each has refused to conform. With improvisation and adaptation of both media and spirit, they give representation to those communities who are often unheard. These artists push beyond counterproductive categorizations and fearlessly enter a world of hybridization.  

Looking into the faces in the portraits exhibited here, it is easy to feel connected by a common humanity and also appreciate the significance of history and ancestry. A sensitivity to both is the grace on offer, one we would all do well to welcome home.

Exhibition artists: Zina Al-Shukri, Paolo Arao, Firelei Báez, Susan Chen, Binh Danh, Claudio Dicochea, Guillermo Galindo, Jiha Moon, Aliza Nisenbaum, Maria Paz, Zemer Peled, Yulia Pinkusevich, Lien Truong, Saya Woolfalk, and Xiaoze Xie.

Please see a link to a flickr album of images from the showAnd installation images.

Associated Public Programs:

Where the Heart Is Artist Lectures: Link to past Jiha Moon talk

Where the Heart is Artist Talks: Maria Paz—Link to past Maria Paz session

Where the Heart is Artist Talks: Yulia Pinkusevich—Link to past Yulia Pinkusevich session

Where the Heart Is Artist Talks: Lien Truong—Link to past Lien Truong session

Where the Heart Is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

National Endowment for the Arts logo

The exhibition is also made possible through the generous contributions of Alliance members Brigid Barton, Pat Bashaw, Kenneth Bird, Peggy and Yogen Dalal, Anne Dauer, Judy David and Ric Ferras, Sue and John Diekman, Jeannie Duisenberg and Rich Hlava, Mary J Elmore, Angela and David Filo, Sally Glaser and David Bower, Loren and Mike Gordon, Pamela and David Hornik, Amy and Glen Kacher, Carol Kenyon, Iris and Hal Korol, Beverly and Peter Lipman, Patty McGuigan, Marcia Pugsley and Kent Mather, Bill Reller and Kris Klint, Susan Rosenberg, and Jan Schachter.


Sanctuary City Print Project Residency | January - April 3, 2021

Sanctuary City Print Project Residency

January-April 3, 2021

Location: Art Center facade, Embarcadero Road, Glass Gallery

Image of Sanctuary City photos on a brick building facade

The Palo Alto Art Center is proud to present an installation and exhibition of the Sanctuary City Print Project. Through interactive installations, public projections, billboards, mobile printshop projects and exhibitions, the Project hopes to educate and engage participants and institutions on the topics of sanctuary cities and immigration.

The Palo Alto Art Center project will consist of three installations along Embarcadero Road, two banners on the Embarcadero overpass and an exhibition that will exist virtually until state and county health guidelines allow access to the public. Virtual programs will engage the public until public programs can take place in-person. This project is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Where the Heart Is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists at the Palo Alto Art Center

This project is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. California Arts Council logo


Community Advice Revisited | October 1, 2020 - January 2021

Community Advice Revisited

October 1, 2020-January 2021

Location: Embarcadero Road alongside the Palo Alto Art Center

Susan O'Malley text image that reads Love is Everywhere

All images ©The Estate of Susan O’Malley.


The Palo Alto Art Center, the Palo Alto Public Art Program and the Estate of artist Susan O’Malley have joined forces to present Susan O’Malley’s Community Advice Project, featuring a series of three colorful, radically positive, oversized posters outside the Art Center along Embarcadero Road. The large artworks will be installed beginning October 1, 2020.

The project was originally commissioned by the Palo Alto Art Center for the Community Creates exhibition in 2012. This revisitation of the project will feature three specific Community Advice posters, along with a reprinting of select posters for community engagement projects. Community Advice showcases Susan O’Malley’s timeless work in a current context of social unrest, disconnection, and community fragmentation.

“We feel strongly that the community needs this project more than ever,” says Art Center Director Karen Kienzle. “The positive, uplifting messages in these works remind us of our very best selves and encourage empathy, kindness, optimism, and love.”

City of Palo Alto Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo adds, “The power of public art to stimulate discussion and bring communities together at this difficult time cannot be underestimated. We hope that viewers will connect with O’Malley’s uplifting work and ask themselves what advice they might give to others and why.”

Susan O’Malley was commissioned to create Community Advice in 2012 in conjunction with the Palo Alto Art Center’s grand reopening exhibition Community Creates. As part of the project, O’Malley interviewed around 100 people in Palo Alto asking, “What advice would you give your 8-year-old self? What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?” Using the words of those she met, O’Malley designed ten different letterpress posters. Sometimes the text was used verbatim from the interview; other times she conflated several people’s advice into one. In addition to hanging in the gallery, the posters were installed on electrical poles along Embarcadero Road.

Susan O’Malley previously remarked, “I wanted to create this project because I think it’s easy to forget how wise we can be. We resist our internal wisdom because of fear, fatigue, inconvenience, or any number of reasons. Also, I like to hear other people’s advice. It reminds me that we are different versions of each other trying to make our way through this life.  And sometimes other people’s words magically express exactly what I’m thinking, but can’t seem to pull together. Here in the Silicon Valley, I think this is particularly true as we hurl ourselves into fast-paced lives. We feel detached from one another and even to ourselves.”

O’Malley also shared, “While the posters range from earnest declarations to funny observations, I think there is a deepness of experience present in these simple phrases. My hope is that these community-authored public service announcements will reflect back–even if momentarily–our inner brilliance and perhaps allow a brief space to gently listen to our own advice.”

A new edition of the posters created for the Community Advice project by Horwinksi Printing Company in Oakland will be distributed to senior communities and to schools participating in our Project Look school tour program.

Susan O’Malley’s Community Advice is a presentation of the Estate of Susan O’Malley, the Palo Alto Art Center, and the Palo Alto Public Art Program. The project is generously supported by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, the Palo Alto Public Art Program, and Pamela and David Hornik.


Holding it Together | November 3 - November 14, 2020

Holding it Together

November 3-November 14, 2020

Photo collage artwork

Vanessa Woods, Each One of Us Was Fastened to the Other, 49 Panel unique collage from original photographs, 44 x 44 in., 2020, Courtesy of the artist and Jack Fischer Gallery.


Holding it Together playfully examines the state of parenting during a pandemic, when work and life bleed into each other and projects remain incomplete, fractured by constant interruptions. Life stressors loom large while sweet uplifting moments spring up unexpectedly. From this crucible of home life, the ten Bay Area artists in this exhibit celebrate the chaotic and half-finished, the tender and the heartbreaking, and ask the question of what it is to be human in 2020, raising other humans. Ranging across several forms and mediums, including: video, sculpture, painting, drawing, installation, and community-generated projects, this exhibit invites you to see, feel, and think about how we’ve all been holding it together during a pandemic.

The ten artists in this exhibition were all part of a special artist-parent residency program, Being Human, created at the Art Center in conjunction with our Care and Feeding: The Art of Parenthood exhibition in 2018.

Participating artists: Alexandra Bailliere, Karen Leslie Ficke, Benicia Gantner, Amy Hibbs, Jenny Hynes, Jill Miller, Robin Mullery, Ashley Lauren Saks, Trevor Tubelle, and Vanessa Woods.

We were sorry to prematurely close our Holding it Together exhibition due to the Art Center’s closure. We encourage you to experience the show online, through our flickr album.

The two video works in the exhibition are also available online:

Ashley Lauren Saks
"We're playing dinosaurs", 1993/2020
See Ashley Lauren Saks video

Jill Miller
My Mother’s Titanium Hip, 2020
See Jill Miller's video

Peninsula Photo Contest | September 12 - December 12, 2020

Peninsula Photo Contest

September 12-December 12, 2020  

Location: Palo Alto Art Center Glass Gallery

photograph of urban landscape two figures looking up

(Youth) Moments Winner: Alison Soong, “Before the Rain” 2019, San Francisco.

Sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly and The Six Fifty. Check out all the winning images.

Read the Palo Alto Weekly article on the exhibition.

Rooted: Trees in Contemporary Art | January 25 - August 23, 2020

Rooted: Trees in Contemporary Art

January 25-August 23, 2020

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
—Herman Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

black and white pinhole photograph of forest

Adam Donnelly and David Janesko, Pescadero Creek, CA, 2013, gelatin silver print, 40 x 50 in. darkroom mural; courtesy of the artists.


Perhaps more than any other elements of the landscape, trees represent nature. Their greenery breaks up the hardscape of our suburban or urban environments, reminding us of the natural world. Trees remain the largest living organisms on earth. They also serve as relics of a prehistoric world, with some trees in California dating to more than 2,500 years ago. For these reasons and more, trees have continued to inspire artists, generating artwork that encourages us to consider the power of trees in our lives and communities.

Our City is named for a tree—El Palo Alto—a 110-foot-tall, 1,100 year old Coastal Redwood. In the 1890s, early tree advocates in our community planted our initial tree canopy. At that time, members of the Palo Alto Women’s Club transported milk cans filled with water in horse-drawn buggies to irrigate these early trees. Today, the City of Palo Alto grows and maintains approximately 36,000 city-owned urban trees. These trees remain a vital part of the Palo Alto landscape.

Trees provide a variety of benefits to people and our larger ecosystem. They trap dust and air pollution, shading harmful solar radiation. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and slowing climate change. They are natural air conditioners, reducing summer temperatures. Trees help people live longer, healthier, and ultimately happier lives averting an estimated $6.8B in health care costs. Research indicates that exposure to trees reduces blood pressure, slowing heart rates and reducing stress.

The Palo Alto Art Center has its own collection of unique and wondrous trees on our property. After seeing the show, we encourage you to pick up a tree map and explore the trees around you.

Participating Artists: Galen Brown, Matthew Brown, James Chronister, Katie DeGroot, Adam Donnelly and David Janesko, Charles Gaines, Stephen Galloway, Maria Elena Gonzalez, Scott Greene, Azucena Hernandez, Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth Hope, Tamara Kostianovsky, David Maxim, Klea McKenna, Ann McMillan, Jason Middlebrook, Meridel Rubenstein, and Jamie Vasta.

Take a look at some of the artwork in our Rooted exhibition.

Enjoy photos from our Friday Night at the Art Center to celebrate the Rooted exhibition opening.
Check out Canopy's videos and photos of our Rooted exhibition.

Patrick Dougherty: Whiplash | 2016 - 2020

Patrick Dougherty: Whiplash

“My affinity for trees as a material seems to come from a childhood spent wandering the forest around Southern Pines, North Carolina... When I turned to sculpture as an adult, I was drawn to sticks as a plentiful and renewable resource.” 
—Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty stick installation

Whiplash, 2016, by North Carolina Artist Patrick Dougherty was created during a three-week artist residency. His sustainable willow material came from upstate New York, and was shaped in a process similar to basketry, but which the artist describes as akin to drawing. Patrick has created more than 275 monumental, site-specific sculptures on the grounds of museums, universities, botanical gardens, and private residences worldwide. His compelling sculptures evoke woodland architecture or gargantuan nests.

Whiplash was supported by the Palo Alto Art Center, the Palo Alto Public Art Program, and the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, with support from William Reller, Pat Bashaw and Eugene Segre, Catharine and Dan Garber, Barbara Jones, Nicki and Pete Moffat, Nancy Mueller, Anne and Craig Taylor, the Acton Family Fund, and more than 40 community donors to the Foundation’s first crowd funding initiative.

Encounters: Honoring the Animal in Ourselves | September 14 - December 29, 2019

Encounters: Honoring the Animal in Ourselves

September 14-December 29, 2019 

drawing of dog and human feet with painted toenails  

Craig Calderwood, Surrogate, 2014, pen, mulberry paper, beeswax, thread, 9x12 in., courtesy of the artist.

In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides

—James Dickey, “The Sheep Child”
“Defining the animals as a way of defining the human is as old and common as beer.”
—Onno Oerlemans, “Poetry and Animals: Blurring the Boundary with the Human”

Humankind was born living alongside other animals, studying their behavior, sharing resources, fighting for land, sleeping under the same sky. As civilization progresses and cultural paradigms shift, it is inevitable that our relationship to our nonhuman brethren would also change. Today, other animals possess an endless number of positions in society. They are political pawns, commodities to be bought and sold, and pests to be eradicated. As often and as much they are beloved companions, symbols of beauty and innocence, and essential to environmental stability.  They are worshipped and slaughtered in what is, unfortunately, unequal measure. If human activity continues at its current rate, we will lose half of all species by the end of this century.

Our artist ancestors, who painted in blood and carved into stone the likenesses of the animals with whom they shared space, had no choice but to locate themselves within the context of the greater ecosystem Today, encountering an undomesticated creature as we go about our daily lives is, at least in most urban areas, an event of note. Watching a coyote cross a busy street, glimpsing a bobcat on a hike, following a hawk as it circles above, or even finding a salamander in a backyard, can be a singular occurrence in the course of a human life.

All the artists in this exhibition have had, or imagine they have had, revelatory encounters with other animals. Even more, they find meaning for their own lives by interpreting these occurrences. Drawing freely from the characteristics, behaviors, and architypes of the nonhuman animal world they examine the events and emotional content of their lives, exploring themes of kinship, identity, hybridity, death, and love.

In her animated short Ascend, Shiva Ahmadi uses animal imagery to rage against and memorialize the real life death of a 3 year old Syrian refugee. Photographer and fisherman Corey Arnold documents the interactions between animals (human and nonhuman) he witnesses and experiences as a fisherman on the Bering Sea. Patricia Piccinini sculpts arresting, hyper-realistic creatures that are both human and other, speaking to the mutability of form.  Printmaker Belkis Ayón Manso draws on the power of the animal architypes in African-Cuban myth to tell her own story.

As John Berger puts it, “animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises.” And if the artists in this exhibition are any indication, this they remain.

Participating Artists:

Shiva Ahmadi Corey Arnold
Roberto Benavidez Craig Calderwood
Leonora Carrington El Gato Chimney
Kate Clark Anna Fidler
Belkis Ayón Manso Kara Maria
Patricia Piccinini Christopher Reiger
Fanny Retsek Samuelle Richardson
Elisabeth Higgins O'Connor Robb Putnam

Local Editions: A Celebration of Bay Area Printmaking | June 15 - August 25, 2019

Local Editions: A Celebration of Bay Area Printmaking

June 15-August 25, 2019

print of group of 19th century figures dancing

Kathy Aoki, (She) Twerkin', 2014, stone lithography with watercolor, 18x24 in., courtesy of the artist.


The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the most creative and innovative print studios in the country. Locally and internationally renowned artists have created new work with master printers at presses which include Arion Press, Crown Point Press, Electric Works, Gallery 16, Greunwald Press, KALA, Magnolia Editions, Mullowney Printing, Paulson Fontaine Press, Trillium Graphics, and Smith Andersen Editions. For this exhibition, the Art Center has collected pieces produced at these notable presses in order to celebrate the rich tradition of fine art printmaking, showcasing its many processes and results. With our accompanying artist-in-residence program highlighting local printmakers for short, nine-day residencies, the Center intends to engage the public directly in the power of printmaking. And through our Summer of Printmaking, inspire our visitors to try their hand at this dynamic and always-evolving form of expression. 

Participating Artists:

Darren Almond Marcel Dzama Greg Niemeyer and Roger
Kathy Aoki Stella Ebner Nathan Olivera
Mamma Andersson and Jockum
David Gilhooly Deborah Oropallo
Tauba Auerbach Takuji Hamanaka Mel Ramos
Miya Ando Frank Lobdell Gustavo Rivera
Sandow Birk Diogenes Lucero Maurice Sendak
Rebeca Bollinger Fred Martin William Wiley
Enrique Chagoya Michael Mazur Joe Zirker
Robert Crumb Kerry James Marshall Jessica Dunne

Peninsula Photo Contest | May 21 - June 23, 2019

Peninsula Photo Contest

May 21-June 23, 2019

Location: Palo Alto Art Center Meeting Room
Sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly and The Six Fifty

crowd walking on sidewalk

Katie Chan Firtch, In Passing, 2019.

Cultural Kaleidoscope and Youth Art | April 27-May 26, 2019 (Youth Art ended May 19)

Cultural Kaleidoscope and Youth Art

April 27-May 26, 2019 (Youth Art ended May 19)   

exhibition announcement postcard

Left: Tuli Morin, 3rd grade, Addison Elementary. Right: Valu Mataele, 2nd grade, Mixed Media Buddy Selfie Portrait (top), Brentwood Academy Noah Siva, 3rd grade, Mixed Media Buddy Selfie Portrait (bottom), Herbert Hoover Elementary.

Cultural Kaleidoscope: Collaborative Artworks by Palo Alto and East Palo Alto Students
The culminating exhibition of the Palo Alto Art Center’s unique artists-in-the-schools program Cultural Kaleidoscope, which partners K-5 classes from schools in Palo Alto Unified School District and Ravenswood City School District

Youth Art: Annual Exhibition of Artworks by Palo Alto Unified School District Art Students
Youth Art celebrates the imaginative spirit of the students from the Palo Alto Unified School District, featuring work from students in grades K-12. Instructors have selected work that demonstrates accomplishment and innovation in the classroom.

The Sheltering Sky | January 19 - April 7, 2019

The Sheltering Sky

January 19-April 7, 2019

 “A black star appears, a point of darkness in the night sky's clarity. Point of darkness and gateway to repose. Reach out, pierce the fine fabric of the sheltering sky, take repose.”
— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

image of dark cave with starlight sky

Vanessa Marsh, Cave 3, 2016, chromogenic photogram, 20x25 in., courtesy of the artist and Dolby Chadwick Gallery, SF.


Taking its title from the iconic novel by Paul Bowles, this exhibition looks to the stars for comfort in the darkest of times. Our connection with, and attention to, the abstract concept we call the “sky” is binding, and contemplating its many facets provide rich subject matter for artists. This exhibition will explore a variety of artistic responses through works in a wide range of media.

 The origins of the word “sky” are various and many. In Old Norse it was the word for cloud; in Old High German it comes from the words for shadow and mirror; in Middle English, it can mean heaven. These definitions reflect the mutability of the sky itself; it is the true and original shapeshifter, never static, always evolving, a storyboard onto which we project ourselves and our mythologies, and from which we gather information about our possible futures.

 While the human stature may be small in comparison to the vastness of the atmosphere above and around us, we are inexorably linked to it, creating it and being created by it in every moment. We are burning, evaporating, decomposing, and breathing ? the results of which are taken up into the heavens and retuned to us as magnificent sunsets, roiling clouds, and acidic rain. Extreme weather events pound the planet; hurricanes, volcanic ash, flooding and drought all draw our gaze upwards. Yet no matter how surreal, how political, how dangerous it is, we still look to the sky for solace, and there is nothing like it to bring us back to earth.

Participating Artists:

Matthew Baum
Sarah and Joseph Belknap
Val Britton
Adrian Landon Brooks
Sukey Bryan
Eiko Borcherding
Linda Connor
Ala Ebtekar
Jenifer Kent
Vanessa Marsh
Chris McCaw
Anna Von Mertens
Pieter Laurens Mol
Demetrius Oliver
Katie Paterson
Dario Robleto
Camille Seaman
Hiroshi Sugimoto

Val Britton | January 19 - April 7, 2019

Val Britton

January 19-April 7, 2019

paper hanging installation by Val Britton

Val Britton, Upper Air, 2019 (detail), site-specific installation of hand cut and laser cut paper, ink, and thread.

In conjunction with our exhibition in the main gallery, we are presenting a new, site-specific installation by Val Britton. Her immersive work suggests fragmented, exploded landscapes, or in this case skyscapes. Britton received her MFA from California College of the Arts. She is the recipient of numerous grants, fellowships, and residencies and her work is included in many prominent collections across the country. She currently lives in Seattle, WA.

Palo Alto Art Center Exhibition Archive 1971-2021(PDF, 1MB)