Public Art Program
Public Art Program
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.
Permanent Collection Maintenance Program
The Public 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 extensive treatment or repair are Albuquerque by Gale 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!
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.
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!
Currently on Display
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.
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.
The Blue Trees by Konstantin Dimopoulos (installed May 2018)
The Public Art Program temporarily transforms eight magnolia trees in front of City Hall to a striking shade of cobalt blue as part of the environmental art installation, The Blue Trees. Artist Konstantin Dimopoulos worked in partnership with volunteers May 14-19 to color the bark blue on eight magnolia trees on King Plaza with an eco-friendly, non-toxic colorant. As an ephemeral artwork, the colored trees will eventually return to their natural state, but the socially-driven art project is designed to spark lasting discussion about global deforestation. At an opening event on May 16th, Dimopoulos and representatives from both Canopy and City Urban Forestry discussed Palo Alto forestry and the importance of trees to our community. The installation is expected to remain on display for nine months to one year, depending on weather conditions.
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.
The Artwork Forge 2.0 by Toby Fraley (November 2017 - April 2018)
Displayed in King Plaza, Toby Fraley’s Artwork Forge 2.0 was a retro-style interactive robotic sculpture that creates on-demand unique artworks for visitors in just two minutes. By inserting four quarters, a visitor could watch their artwork being “created” by the Forge, and eventually being deposited into a tray on one end of the sculpture for collection. While leaving the visitor with a textbook-perfect work of art as a result of this automated process, the artist reminded one playfully to think what a human artist brings to works of art that a machine may never be able to produce.
Over 1000 people have interacted with the Artwork Forge over the course of 6 months. The sculpture prompted animated debates between friends and strangers as to whether or not the Forge created the work of art, or if the Forge was simply distributing pre-made artworks. Many visitors became real fans of the retro-style sculpture and started collecting printed artworks while sharing them on social media. Over a hundred different designs of the artworks, some with images site-specific to Palo Alto, are randomly dispensed to ensure the user experience is always filled with surprise and anticipation of something fun and unexpected.
The Artwork Forge 2.0 was specially created for Palo Alto and is the second rendition of the artwork, designed by Fraley to withstand a 6-month installation in a highly used public plaza. Fraley built the interactive sculpture from scratch using re-purposed RV windows and doors, retrofitted home appliances and electronics, and custom-built mechanisms dispensing the artworks on demand.
The piece was commissioned in partnership with the Palo Alto Art Center in conjunction with their exhibition Play!
The Running Wall by Aaron Lee Benson (October 2016 – March 2017)
Aaron Lee Benson’s Running Wall was a temporary site-specific functional sculpture for King Plaza in downtown Palo Alto. Constructed of two by fours, Running Wall begins with a bench connected to a rippling low wall that serpentines between the trees and culminates in a circular sculptural element at the other end of the installation. The concept for the artwork was conceived by the artist 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. After the six-month installation, all wood was donated to graduate students of the Stanford University Art Department.
In Search of the Truth by Cause Collective (April 19, 2017)
People in Palo Alto spent the day trying to answer the question, “What is Your Truth?” when the acclaimed In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth) project made an appearance on King Plaza in front of City Hall. The giant inflatable speech bubble and video recording booth popped up from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in front of the City of Palo Alto City Hall located at 250 Hamilton Avenue. The public was invited to enter and record two-minute videos beginning with the statement, “The truth is….” The Truth Booth’s creators have already captured thousands of definitions, representations, confessions, and thoughts on “the truth” worldwide, and continue to engage the public in an interactive experience with art, media, and free speech. Participation was free and open to the public. Check out a video of the event on the City of Palo Alto's YouTube Channel.
Public Safety Building
To view artist Peter Wegner's updated artwork concept for the new Public Safety Building at 250 Sherman Avenue, please visit the presentation website. The new Public Safety Building will house the Police Department, 911 Emergency Dispatch Center, the Emergency Operations Center, the Office of Emergency Services, and the administration needs of the Fire Department. The new PSB is anticipated to be completed in late 2021.