A tree wrapped in a blue cloth as part of ArtLift in Palo Alto.

Lift Yourself up by Art – ArtLift in Palo Alto

The Palo Alto Public Art Program called for 40 artists to create ArtLift, to raise the spirit of the community with art projects throughout the city, and to support local artists. Different art displays and installations were started in March 2021 and will run till September. The theme of ArtLift is COVID related, engaging the community to get back together, reconnect, recover, and enjoy, within COVID restrictions.

Tree wrapped with a pink ribbon as part of ArtLift by Robin Mullery.

I went to Rinconada Park to see Bright Existence by Robin Mullery. Inspired by a poem by Brenda Hillman, bright cloth was wrapped around trees to symbolize our distance yet togetherness throughout the pandemic. Bright Existence will be on display until August. Social Distancing Stools by Tara de la Garza, on display from April to June, was another work, also in Rinconada Park. The seats are made of upcycled materials and concrete and spaced 6 feet apart.

On the walk back, I saw a free library and hoped to spot one of the postcards from The Postcard Project that Susan Meade is leaving around town. Follow her on Instagram @swimmersuze to see where she leaves them. 

Social Distancing Stools an art installation at Rinconada Park in Palo Alto.

I’m always up for hunting down art. I like that you might be discovering them by chance. But if you want to plan out the adventure, check out the Program’s website for an interactive map of locations. 

Where do you go to see public art?

Palo Alto is a great place for public art. Here are some more suggestions:

Enjoy Some Art at Byxbee Park

Surf for Free – Tesla Statue in Palo Alto

Also check out my list of 50 things to do in Palo Alto!

Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

Neighborhood Walks

COVID has most of us homebound and with a minimal radius to explore. I thought I’ll give you some ideas to spice up your daily neighborhood walks. While most of these specific walks are for Silicon Valley, the ideas should transfer to other areas. So, grab your mask and get your steps in with these walking ideas:

Garden

Sign reads: 
Green Garden of Mountain View
Conserves Water
Reduces Waste
Provides Habitat

We are blessed in the Bay Area with a long growing season. To get inspired for your own vegetable garden you should check out the local community gardens and wander around. There are plenty of Native Plant Gardens in the area. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has a great list (https://www.cnps-scv.org/gardening/gardening-with-natives/69-public-gardens-of-native-plants-69).  In the same category, Mountain View’s Green Garden Showcase features front yards that are examples of California Native Plants, water wise gardens, and environmental friendly practices.(https://www.mountainview.gov/depts/pw/services/conserve/landscape/showcase.asp)

Art

Rodin's thinker (part of the Gates of Hell) at Stanford University.

With all museums closed right now I admit I’m a little art deprived. 

Sculptures are great outdoor artworks you can still admire. One of the largest collections of sculptures around is on the Stanford Campus. You can limit yourself to Rodin, it’s the largest in the U.S., or go around campus and find other inspiring pieces.

The Triton Museum in Santa Clara features a sculpture garden on the premises. (https://www.santaclaraca.gov/Home/Components/ServiceDirectory/ServiceDirectory/1260/2661)

Some local towns have maps to their public art works. I found the bike racks in Los Altos a welcoming change and great for kids to try to find them all!

If you are more of a mural enthusiast I recommend San Jose, Redwood City, and Palo Alto.

Some examples of public art:

Santa Clara: https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/about-santa-clara/maps/art-statues

Los Altos: https://www.losaltosca.gov/publicartscommission/page/public-sculpture

Palo Alto (map): https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1AUOuWuDvI0_jAbZYvvY_JBD9lIs&ll=37.42470074587974%2C-122.16085689067381&z=14

History

San Jose History Walk (Number 25)

San Jose as the first Capitol of California has a rich history to share. They compiled a history walk for downtown. No need to print out a map, you can just follow the signs. If you would rather have a digital idea or would like to print out the brochure, here is the PDF: https://www.sanjose.org/pdf/downtown-san-jose-historic-walking-tour-guide

Japantown in San Jose offers historic information on their benches.

A few other towns have  lists of historic buildings. Rich Heli has compiled three historic walking tours for Mountain View: https://rick-heli.info/mvtour/

Shopping

High Delta Market a window art installation in Palo Alto.

While most shops are currently closed, most downtowns invite you for a nice evening stroll on main street. Mountain View, for example, closed off their downtown area for most car traffic. The other night I walked by an exercise class. Also window shopping is an option. My favorite non-shopping window is in Palo Alto at the Future Institute.

If you feel the need to acquire something while on a walk, check out a little free library near you or in some other neighborhood.

Nature

Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

I love the fact that we are able to walk to our neighborhood park. If you want to mix it up, why not explore another park near you? 

Canopy has  multiple self-guided tree walks: https://canopy.org/our-work/tree-walks/

Animals

Buddy the new donkey of Bol Park, Palo Alto.

Birdwatching while walking is always a great pastime. If you want to see egrets you should check out the Google campus.

Bring the kids for a peak at the donkeys in Bol Park

Do you have ideas for fun activity walks?

Sculpture of a M at Menlo College.

Enable New Sculptures

There are spaces for new sculptures in this country. While some sculptures are offensive and protesters have managed to topple some of them lately, there are also sculptures that inspire us.

Georg Huerter's Yellow Barrel Ring at Menlo College.

One place to view new sculptures is Menlo College. From September 25 – 27 the Silicon Valley Sculpture 2020, a fine art fair, will be held on their campus. This year’s theme is “Past, Present, Progressive”, a fitting motto for 2020. 

Sculpture at Menlo College from Rotaut. Part of the Silicon Valley Sculpture 2020.

They have just started to add sculptures on campus. For example George Huerter’s ‘Yellow Barrel Ring’ greets visitors when entering the campus. There is also the work of Rotraut, a German-French visual artist, which glisters in the sun in a metallic black. 

Are there any sculptures you would like to see in public places?

Discover more of San Mateo County – see my 50 things to do in San Mateo County.

Tesla statue, Palo Alto

Surf for Free – Tesla Statue in Palo Alto

You might find some public art objectionable. If part of the art is providing free Wi-Fi, will you still object?

Tesla statue, 260 Sheridan Ave, Palo Alto.

Since December 2013 there is a Tesla statue providing free Wi-Fi in Palo Alto with a time capsule to be opened in 2043, 100 years after Tesla died. 


A successful kickstarter campaign was held for the sculpture and free Wi-Fi. It also has it’s own website: https://www.teslastatue.com/ and can be counted as a true Silicon Valley experience.You can also support this artwork and the Wi-Fi by buying a small replica on Amazon (this is the final year of sale).

Tesla statue, 260 Sheridan Ave, Palo Alto.

Dorian Porter of Northern Imagination LLC ran this successful campaign and Harold Hohbach a landowner provides a place in front of one of his office buildings, 260 Sheridan Ave, Palo Alto. 

Yes, your local coffee shop provides Wi-Fi, but I still love the art created by Terry Geyer.

Where do you go to surf for free?
Palo Alto is a haven for public art. I do like the murals on California Ave.

Resources:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/nikola-tesla-statue

https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2013/12/06/nikola-tesla-statue-to-be-unveiled-in-palo-alto


Lazy Daisies part of the Shadow Art series by Damon Belanger

Go on a shadowy treasure hunt

Most of the time walking in a city I feel like people should look up more. I mean really up. The old storefronts, birds that huddle together in the same directions on a lamp post, and murals are treats only to be discovered by a slight change of perspective.

Railbots part of the Shadow Art series by Damon BelangerLooking down can also be rewarding especially in Redwood City were Damon Belanger was chosen for the sidewalk art project in 2016. Belanger received the HOW International Design Award for the shadow art he created all around downtown Redwood City.

Dog the Cat part of the Shadow Art series by Damon BelangerAll over downtown you can be greeted by dragons, scared by monsters seemingly coming out of the mailbox, or meet a dog casting it’s shadow out of a bench. You will find a lot of whimsical creatures and robots too.

Wild Ride, part of the Shadow Art series by Damon BelangerThe city provides a map with all 20 stations of the shadow artwork. I walked around to find most of them and soon I was looking down and chasing shadows. The trick is to find the non moving objects in the city scape, like benches, water hydrants and lamp posts. Then Belanger’s art casts a shadow of these objects that transform the original and make us wonder, sometimes giggle, about the unique creatures. With a lot of humor and knowledge of the city Belanger made a valuable contribution to the public art scene.

It’s a great frugal adventure for little kids, too.

Have you ever hunted for art shadows?

Murmur Wall by Future Cities Lab

Experience code:Art

I love how devoted Palo Alto is to public art. Their latest installment will only last through this weekend code:ART.

Eight installations starting at City Hall are meant to involve the audience and inspire the dialogue of passerbys.

Advertised as a laboratory for urban experimentation the artists reimagine public spaces through interactive sound, light and motion installations.

The Murmur Wall, the first installation at City Hall, displays search terms from Palo Alto on multiple LED screens connected with lights. On the website: http://www.murmurwall.net/Whisper you can enter your own “whispers” that will be displayed instantly. This will be the only piece that will remain after June 3rd. Since it is LED lights I bet it is better viewed at night.

The soTomo Saito's Save and Soundund installation of Tomo Saito is active twice a day at 2 pm and 6 pm.  It is a concert made by the people that sit down in the chairs.

Across the street you can be part of the art making and let Palo Alto know what your dream city will look like.

Sensory Garden by Elaine Uang, Sandra Slater & Megan Stevens

 

My favorite piece is the Sensory Garden. In an alley next to Bell’s books the artists try to evoke all of your senses. You can touch moss, smell herbs, admire the chalk mural or rattle some cow bells. 

Will you check out code:ART?

Come out and play

Come out and play

My son passed the age of playgrounds, but when he was a toddler and even up to young teen he loved climbing and sliding.

So, whenever I see a cool playground I remember the good times.

Slide at Las Palmas park in SunnyvaleThe playground at Las Palmas Park in Sunnyvale is one of those fun, creative hang-out spots. There are two playgrounds right next to each other, one for toddlers, one for 4 – 12 year olds. And if you‘ve got a ball player, there is even a great grass field.

Head statue at the Las Palmas park in SunnyvaleThe bigger playground is surrounded by water and some interesting sculptures. In the drought they don’t fill the pond which makes the heads look even more fascinating, plus not having water around makes it safer for toddlers. If there is water collecting in the pond it is left-over from the rain we had recently.

Here is a review from Silicon Valley Toddler with a lot of risk management features:

http://svtoddler.blogspot.com/2013/09/playground-review-las-palmas-park.html

 

Which one is your favorite playground in the Bay Area?

Byxbee Park in Palo Alto

Walk the trails between Bay and posts

The BYXBEE Park in Palo Alto is named after John Fletcher Byxbee, a local engineer, who first recommended developing the Baylands as a public park.

The park lies behind the Palo Alto airport and is part of the Baylands Nature Preserve, one of the largest areas of undisturbed marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay.

People here appreciate the long, flat trails for a nice walking, running or biking workout. The unique mixture of tidal and freshwater habitats makes this a welcoming terrain for birds of all kinds.

Art installation in Byxbee Park, Palo AltoThe art that is displayed might make some people wonder: Posts that start small but grow in height, lining a small path up a hill.

These 72 posts made from concrete highway barriers symbolize the mesh between former landfill and new nature sanctuary.  Art installation in Byxbee Park, Palo Alto

 

The artists Peter Richards and Michael Oppenheimer in a collaboration with the landscape architects Hargreaves Associates, developed this 29 acre park and won the national ASAL Honer Award in 1993.

Have you ever pondered about the posts at Byxbee Park?

Patrick Dougherty's Whiplash at the Palo Alto Art Center

Wander around the weaved Whiplash

The latest public art installation in Palo Alto is a willow weaved whiplash from artist Patrick Dougherty.

Patrick Dougherty's whiplash at the Palo Alto Art CenterThis is his second work, the first one, also made from natural materials was dismantled in June. This new one, called Whiplash, stands in front of the Palo Alto Art Center facing Embarcadero Rd. and is an impressive construction, with multiple rooms and windows, that lead you into a courtyard.

It is made out of only natural materials and a very enchanting place. The smell of the willow was very strong on my visit, maybe because it rained? This definitely added to the experience.

I can see little kids run through the crafted arches, or play hide and seek. (I’m sure kids will be even more inventive!)

If you still need to satisfy your art hunger you can check out the sculpture garden and the current exhibits in the Art CenterAt the sculpture garden at the Palo Alto Art Center

Have you seen Patrick Dougherty and over 60 volunteers work on this for three weeks in November?

Art in the park

Art in the park

When you drive by Foothill Expressway in Los Altos I urge you to take a break and see the public art in Lincoln Park. This is a long strip of grass with multiple sculptures.

Three doors in Lincoln ParkMy favorite are the three doors. I am not sure what their official name is, I think it should be three doors. They open up, so I am sure if you have little kids this can entertain them for quite some time. 

 

Musical GambolI also liked the Musical Gambol, a vibrant display that unfortunately does not make any noise.

This weekend, May 14 & 15 Lincoln Park will be the location for Fine Arts in the Park, from 10 to 5:30. The Rotary Club will present over 170 artists. Proceedings go to various socially significant projects.

 

Do you have a favorite public art piece?

 

For a list of all public art in Los Alto you can visit this web page: http://www.losaltosca.gov/publicartscommission/page/public-sculpture