Public Art Program
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.
Currently on Display
ArtLift Microgrant Program
The Palo Alto Public Art Program is proud to present the ArtLift Microgrant Program which has made available funding for 40 artists and creatives with the goal of helping the community recover emotionally and economically from the pandemic through the arts and creative outlets. Through funding art projects and experiences in our commercial corridors and our neighborhoods, ArtLift will foster safe and creative ways to remain engaged in the arts, reconnect with each other, and recover together as a cohesive community.
Explore all ArtLift Projects
Arbor: New Temporary Installation Maps Palo Alto's Database of Public Trees
The City of Palo Alto Public Art Program presents Arbor, a new temporary art installation by Oakland-based artist and architect Adam Marcus. The immersive sculptural installation is a data spatialization of the urban forest of Palo Alto. Arbor uses the database of over 45,000 public trees in the City’s Open Data Portal as the basis for a collective, three-dimensional map of one aspect of the city’s ecology. The site-specific temporary artwork, installed at King Plaza at 250 Hamilton Avenue, will remain on display through early 2022.
Arbor, made of 120 laser-cut, powder-coated steel ribs using five colors that subtly gradate along the circle, performs as a compass-like map, with each rib corresponding to a different “pie slice” of territory radiating outwards from King plaza. The trees are represented by bumps on the outer edge, so the zones with more trees result in ribs with more bumps. The inside edge has negative voids that correspond to the trees in the opposite direction. The ribs are arranged in an open circular form, gradually changing in height and profile to create a dynamic form that is different from each side. Arbor looks to historical examples of optical devices that operate radially, such as the zoetrope and the cyclorama, both of which use radial geometry to create dynamic spatial conditions. Individually, each rib represents the density of trees in its corresponding zone of the city. Collectively, the ribs coalesce into a singular yet dynamic form that becomes a spatial relief map of the city’s shared network of trees.
Explore Eight Temporary Murals across Palo Alto
We have now launched the Temporary Murals Program with site-specific murals sprinkled throughout our Palo Alto business districts. Eight selected local artists/artist teams have created digital, original designs with the purpose of supporting emotional and economic well-being. The designs are printed on a recyclable aluminum material and are temporary installed in different locations on the University and California Avenues. The University Avenue area murals are created by t.w.five, Robin Apple, Lauren Berger, and Katherine Liu, while the California Avenue district Jorge Camacho, Damon Belanger, Liz Hickock, and Carrie Lederer.
Viewers will be able to navigate from one mural site to the next with the help of an interactive tour map. Art labels at each location will incorporate QR codes offering more information about each artist and their artwork. Pictures tagged with @publicartpa will be highlighted in the Public Art Program’s social media.
Based on success of the pilot and identification of new host locations, the Public Art Program hopes to expand this project. This program is part of the Uplift Local
Foraging Islands by Watershed Sculpture (installed September 2018)
Foraging Islands is an ecological sculpture that helps to re-establish foraging habitat for a variety of wildlife and prey species. This includes invertebrates (earwigs, Jerusalem crickets, and other insects) and small mammals (field mice, voles, etc.) essential to the foraging activities of burrowing owls, white-tailed kites, and a variety of hawks.
Environmental artists Daniel McCormick and Mary O'Brien of Watershed Sculpture were selected as Artists-In-Residence for the Baylands Nature Preserve in the spring of 2018. The goal of the residency was to create a public art overlay for the Baylands Comprehensive Conservation Plan (BCCP). Another goal was to engage stakeholders and community members in this process.
The artists engaged volunteers to create the wildlife-friendly temporary public art installation. They weaved wood and natural materials harvested from the nearby areas to build the foraging habitat island. Over the course of 5 days in September, 65 volunteers of all ages and abilities worked 189 hours to build this 43-foot-long sculpture.
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 over 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 the 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 Nathan Oliveira, 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.
Collection Care & Maintenance Program
The Public Art Program is committed to ongoing maintenance and restoration projects for the permanent collection. Permanent and temporary artworks are regularly cleaned and receive preventative treatments to protect them from the elements. Some of the works receive more extensive conservation and repair treatments. If you notice vandalism or artworks in disrepair, please call the Public Art office immediately at 650-329-2227. Thank you!
Help Us Preserve the Public Art Collection
Your tax-deductible donations to the Public Art Program are essential to support our ongoing maintenance and conservation efforts for the Palo Alto Public Art Collection. The collection is comprised of over 300 permanently sited and portable works of art by local and world-renowned artists. Together we can preserve the artworks for future generations. Thank you!