Public Art Program
Public Art Program
Denise Laxen di Zazzo
About the Palo Alto 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.
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 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 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.
Email Newsletter Sign-Up
Receive monthly updates about the Palo Alto Public Art Program, new commissions, and artist opportunities. We will only use your email address to communicate with you about our projects and events. You can unsubscribe anytime by replying to any email you receive from us by clicking on the "unsubscribe" link in the message.
California Avenue District Public Art Plan
Public Art Program in partnership with art consultant Barbara Goldstein & Associates / Art Builds Community are developing a Public Art Plan for the California Avenue district. Recommendations that the plan makes for the future of public art in the California Avenue District may be funded through the Percent for Art in Private Development.
The California Avenue Public Art Plan will:
- Strengthen California Avenue’s unique cultural identity as the vibrant “Avenue of the Arts”;
- Encourage cultural tourism by retaining and attracting Palo Alto residents and visitors;
- Support economic development of the California Avenue business community.
The Plan includes community outreach and engagement process with the California Avenue diverse community including businesses, residents, local artists and visitors in the area to shape the future of public art in the district. Stay informed about the latest news and updated for the California Avenue Art Planning project and provide your input about public art opportunities via coUrbanize.
Currently on Display in Palo Alto
California Avenue Parking Garage Construction Fence Murals (installed November 2019)
The Public Art Program commissioned four California artists to create mural designs to adorn the construction fence for the upcoming California Avenue Parking Garage. On view until next fall, each mural has its own distinct style and will add new vibrancy to the commercial district. The four artists who were commissioned for the murals are Phillip Hua, Allison Kunath, Oree Originol, and Samuel Price.
Rewind (top-left) by Phillip Hua: A journey of flying creatures, from birds to butterflies, is depicted on Hua's mural. Hua's intention was to counteract the unending construction of artificial structures with a moment of natural quiet and freedom. The mural plays on Hua's previous work exploring the impact of human-made systems on the natural world and the themes of values and sacrifice.
Common Thread (top-right) by Allison Kunath: Common Thread seeks to highlight the commonalities among all people. The mural is brought together with a single string that loops through a collection of hands in various positions. Much of Kunath's previous work also incorporates hands and sign language as a symbol of unity among communities.
X-Factor (bottom-right) by Oree Originol: Originol's background as a graffiti artist is clearly demonstrated here with the complex overlapping shapes and colors. The vibrancy and chaos of the composition are meant to shock viewers out of the mundaneness of their lives as they navigate the Palo Alto city streets. From the scintillating forms to the density of complex shapes, the mural is sure to ignite inspiration in passersby.
Palo Alto Dog Row (bottom-left) by Samuel Price: This mural is a compilation of the many collaged dog portraits that Price created over the past several years, for people from all over the world. Each image was originally created with hundreds of tiny magazine squares on canvas by hand. The sequence of dogs is a heartwarming and technically skilled rendering of our furry companions.
Cache Me If You Can by FreelandBuck (installed October 2019)
Cache me if you Can invites visitors to King Plaza to explore the relationship between an object and its context. Los Angeles and New York City-based artist team FreelandBuck, comprised of David Freeland and Brennan Buck, designed the installation as a complex geometric structure that doubles as a traversable pavilion.
The pavilion is a three-dimensional, materialized image documenting the life of King Plaza over the course of one spring day. Geometrically, the pavilion is made up of 10 identical triangular panels that form a square frame in elevation. Each panel is printed with a projected pattern derived from photographs of the site.
Approaching from the front, on axis with City Hall, the printed pattern aligns with its surroundings: the building’s fenestration runs down across the folded surfaces of the pavilion, and the plaza’s gridded paving pattern extends up to meet it. From other angles, this view is stretched, folded and mirrored, creating other, less faithful views. Moving counterclockwise around the structure and then inside, the 20 printed surfaces chart the course of that one spring day, May 31, 2019, describing the activity that took place, the changing light levels and shifting shadow patterns. The triangular panels are perforated in a variable pattern based on the same images.
Photographs © Eric Staudenmeier
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 including 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.
In spring 2018, environmental artists Daniel McCormick and Mary O'Brien of Watershed Sculpture were selected as Artists-In-Residence for the Baylands Nature Preserve. The goal of the residency is to create a public art overlay for the Baylands Comprehensive Conservation Plan (BCCP) and engage stakeholders and community members in the environmentally-focused temporary public art-making process.
The artists engaged teams of volunteers to create the wildlife-friendly temporary public art installation by weaving 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 a collective of 189 hours to build a 43-foot-long sculpture.
Go With the Flow by Damon Belanger (installed July 2018)
As part of the City’s comprehensive Neighborhood Traffic Safety and Bicycle Boulevard Project which represents a significant step towards Palo Alto’s vision of a system of neighborhood bicycle and pedestrian routes, the Public Art Program worked on a long-term temporary pilot neighborhood beautification project for the Louis Road - Fielding Drive intersection.
Bay Area-based artist and graphic designer Damon Belanger, selected as the project artist by a selection panel comprised of art professionals, community members, and stakeholders, created a design for four crosswalks titled Go With the Flow. The creative crosswalks were incorporated into the newly constructed bike and pedestrian Louis / Fielding intersection.
Belanger’s whimsy design draws inspiration from the unique character of the local residential community, its history and diversity, and landmarks that make this neighborhood distinct, while enhancing safety and connectivity for people biking and walking. The intersection adjacent to Ohlone Elementary School acts as a main local roadway connecting pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers to Ohlone Elementary School, Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, Chabad Community Center, and other local community organizations.
Permanent Collection 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 to Preserve the Palo Alto 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!