Past Exhibitions

All images ©The Estate of Susan O’Malley

Community Advice 

Exhibition Dates: October 1, 2020-January 2021

Location: Embarcadero Road alongside the Palo Alto Art Center

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 virtual 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.

About Susan O’Malley:
Susan O’Malley
 (1976–2015) was an internationally exhibited artist and curator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. From posters to pep talks, billboards to vending machines, O’Malley’s art uses simple and recognizable tools of engagement to connect people to one another. In her Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self project, she interviewed people of all ages and transformed their words into bold artwork that has been shared widely as a book, prints, and public installations.

O’Malley’s work has been exhibited in public projects across the United States—San Francisco, New York, Nashville—and around the globe in the United Kingdom, Poland, and Denmark. Her work has been exhibited at alternative spaces and cultural institutions, including SFMOMA, Oakland Museum of California, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the San Diego Airport, the Montalvo Art Center, Kala Art Institute, and Palo Alto Art Center. Her participatory installation Finding Your Center, was featured at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. O’Malley’s project “A Healing Walk” is permanently installed at the Montalvo Arts Center. 

About the 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. For more information go to

 Woods Each One of Us Was Fastened to the Other 44x44 1 Tubelle 1 Smaller 1  Mullery Mama Smaller 2

Pictured from left: Vanessa Woods, Each One of Us Was Fastened to the Other, 49 Panel unique collage from original photographs, 44 x 44 Inches, 2020; Trevor Tubelle, Quarantine Walk Drawings; Robin Mullery, Mama?, installation of 19 cement balls in varying sizes, 2020.

Holding it Together

 Exhibition Dates: November 3-December 12 in the Main Gallery
Location: Palo Alto Art Center Main Gallery

Holding it Together playfully examines the state of parenting during a pandemic, in which work and life bleed into each other, and projects remain incomplete, fractured by constant interruptions. This exhibition offers a glimpse into making art while sheltering in place with family, celebrating the chaotic, the unmade, the messy, and the half-finished.

Participating artists:

Alexandra Bailliere
Karen Leslie Ficke
Benicia Gantner
Amy Hibbs
Jenny Hynes
Jill Miller
Robin Mullery
Ashley Lauren Saks
Trevor Tubelle
Vanessa Woods


Before the Rain 1
   Pictured: (Youth) Moments Winner: Alison Soong, “Before the Rain”2019, San Francisco

Peninsula Photo Contest

Exhibition Dates: September 12 to December 12 (these dates may change if we are unable to open the gallery at this time)

Location: Palo Alto Art Center Glass Gallery

Sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly andThe Six Fifty

Check out all the winning images by going here.

Read the Palo Alto Weekly article on the exhibition here.


Rooted: Trees in Contemporary Art

Exhibition Dates: 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

PescaderoCreek BW 1
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.

Confirmed 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
Jamie Vasta

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

Enjoy photos from our Friday Night at the Art Center to celebrate the Rooted exhibition opening here.

Check out Canopy's videos and photos of our Rooted exhibition here.


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

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

Exhibition Dates: September 14—December 29, 2019 
Opening Celebration: Friday, September 20, 2019, 7-10 p.m.
Art, Ecology, and Animal Talks: Saturday, September 21, 2019, 2-4 p.m.

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.

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

Exhibition Dates: June 15—August 25, 2019
Opening Celebration (Friday Night at the Art Center): Friday, June 21, 2019, 7-10 p.m.

Kathy Aoki, (She) Twerkin', 2014

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.

Darren Almond Marcel Dzama Greg Niemeyer and Roger Antonsen 
Kathy Aoki Stella Ebner Nathan Olivera
Mamma Andersson and Jockum Nordstrom 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

Exhibition Dates: May 21—June 23, 2019
Location: Palo Alto Art Center Meeting Room
Reception: Thursday, May 23, 2019, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly and The Six Fifty

In Passing by Katie Chan Firtch

Katie Chan Firtch, In Passing, 2019

Cultural Kaleidoscope and Youth Art

Exhibition Dates: April 27—May 26, 2019 (Youth Art ends May 19!)   
Reception: Wednesday, May 1, 2019, 4:30-7:00 p.m. (Remarks at 5:30 p.m.)

Left: Tuli Morin, 3rd grade, Addison ElementaryRight: 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

Exhibition Dates: January 19—April 7, 2019
Opening Celebration: January 25, 2019, 7-10 p.m.

Vanessa Marsh, Cave 3, 2016

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

 “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

 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

Exhibition Dates: January 19April 7, 2019
Opening Celebration: January 25, 2019, 7-10 p.m.

Val Britton, Upper Air installation

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 Exhibitions Archive 1971-2019

2019 Exhibits2018 Exhibits | 2017 Exhibits | 2016 Exhibits | 2015 Exhibits | 2014 Exhibits | 2013 Exhibits | 2012 Exhibits