The Public Art Commission on Thursday, June 20, pushed forward several public art projects, with a unanimous vote to match a $15,000 donation from Stanford University to cover the walls of the University Avenue Caltrain tunnel with art.
Commissioner Vikki Tobak urged her colleagues to match Stanford's "firm commitment" of the project, which would install temporary rotating artworks in the University Avenue tunnels, located under Alma Street and the Palo Alto Caltrain station.
"I feel that if we match Stanford's commitment of $15,000, that shows the city's seriousness about that space, and it's really a nice place from which to move forward," Tobak said.
With more than 30 submissions, commissioners said the next step is for a selection committee to narrow it down to seven artists from whom they will request specific proposals. The committee is set to meet in August.
The commission will continue to raise funds in the meantime, hoping to reach a total goal of $65,000.
The commission also discussed another temporary public art project in the works for downtown Palo Alto.
The commission read a proposal from Anthony Discenza, an Oakland-based artist whose art has previously been on display at the Palo Alto Art Center, who wants to transform what he calls "visual blank spots" in downtown storefronts into temporary art installations. Discenza recently met with Tobak and Commissioner Trish Collins and walked around Palo Alto.
"One thing that he really honed in on was something that the City Council and community members have been talking about, which is all the startups in the storefronts," Tobak said of his visit to the city. "He thought it was interesting that a lot of these seemingly empty storefronts or closed storefronts actually had very lively, vibrant businesses going on in there."
Discenza proposed putting in what look like traditional street signs, decorated with various adages that point with "tongue and cheek" to the vibrancy and competition that Palo Alto is known for, Tobak said. Previous signs he has created display text such as "Stop dreaming, start living, stop thinking, start loving" and "We wondered at unfamiliar sensations and realized with joy that they were doubts."
The signs would be installed for several months throughout downtown.
Many commissioners voiced concerns that it will be difficult to convince startups or businesses to display such art in their storefronts. Tobak said that Discenza has also proposed alternative mediums, such as putting the street signs up on the street or creating stencils on sidewalks.
Discenza's proposal is pending the commission's approval, depending on a few clarifications on the medium and specific wording he will use.
The arts commission also welcomed a few younger visitors at its meeting, with a group of children presenting an update on the Aurora project, an interactive light sculpture of a tree to be installed in front of City Hall this fall.
The children, along with artist Charles Gadeken and Palo Alto resident Harry Hirschman, filled the commission in on the group's fundraising efforts. Most recently, they were at the Maker Faire in May, creating more than 200 copper leaves that will hang from the sculpture. The leaves are meant to serve as windchimes and will be illuminated by 40,000 LED lights at night.
The project has raised $25,000 so far, with $75,000 to go. Hirschman said they hope to install the sculpture in late October or early November and expect to have raised all of the funds needed before then.