Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - April 1, 2011

Shows on the road

Palo Alto Art Center takes its exhibitions and programs mobile as center closes for renovations

by Joann So

Starting April 4, the Palo Alto Art Center will close its doors until 2012 for a $7.9 million renovation. However, the center will remain active in another way: It's going on the road and continuing to offer art programs and exhibitions in other locations.

While the structure is being upgraded with a new children's wing and other additions, programs will be driven throughout the community with the help of a brightly decorated art truck. Karen Kienzle, director of the art center, said that the range of classes will not be significantly cut back. She added that she hopes the mobile programs will reach a broader base.

"The renovation is a transformation — a re-envisioning of programs to the community, a time to evaluate and do an internal audit," Kienzle said.

Many of the adult and children's programs will continue in different locations throughout Palo Alto. These include the popular Project LOOK!, with its art activities and docent tours. (Adult ceramics classes will be on hiatus.)

As classes will be held throughout the year until next summer, staff members are currently looking for areas close to buildings so that activity can easily resume in the case of rain.

Exhibitions will continue in various venues. A show of self-portraits is in the Palo Alto City Hall lobby through April 30, for example, and the annual Youth Art exhibition opens May 9 at the Palo Alto Unified School District offices.

Costs for these "On the Road" endeavors will be covered by a $150,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, which relieves budget pressures for the center, said Joe Tuohy, director of the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

Kienzle added, "The IMHS panelists also gave supportive feedback and recognized the art center for the idea of a portable art truck as a model for museums undergoing renovation."

This method of bringing art directly to the community coincides with the center's hands-on "see and make" approach, center officials said. It's akin to artist Patrick Dougherty asking residents passing by to help him as he was building his tree sculpture "Double Take" outside the art center in January, Kienzle said.

"Double Take" will remain on view during the renovations, and is expected to be up through July 2012.

Other artists showing their works at the art center, including Mildred Howard, will present their on-site installations in to-be-determined locations throughout the community.

The last program held in the art center before doors close will be on April 3 for "On the Road Family Day," from 2 to 4 p.m. The free event includes hands-on art activities and art walks.

The art center is looking to reopen its doors in the summer of 2012, possibly July, Kienzle said.

Info: For more about the Palo Alto Art Center's renovations and programs, go to http://cityofpaloalto.org/artcenter or call 650-329-2366. Center officials also plan to frequently announce activities — and the art truck's location — on Facebook (paloaltoartcenter) and Twitter (@paloaltoartctr).

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