Code: ART coming to downtown Palo Alto next year

Crowdsourcing art festival will give public a say in alleyway redesigns

Palo Alto is preparing to turn downtown into an interactive "creative laboratory" for three days next year as part of a new program to crowdsource ideas from the community that could transform underutilized alleyways and corridors into engaging public spaces.

The city's Public Art Commission learned on May 19 that the Palo Alto Public Art Program is moving ahead with the launch of Code: ART with support from a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The program will bring two temporary public art installations and eight urban art interventions, or "prototypes," to various locations throughout downtown for the public to explore during a three-day festival in June 2017.

Those attending the festival will get to provide feedback on which prototypes they'd like to see developed in downtown.

"We've heard lots of feedback from community members, commuters and businesses about the desire to activate the downtown alleyways," Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo said. "This is an opportunity for us to bring different groups together to re-imagine some of these underutilized spaces into places that will stimulate interaction between people."

The concept for Code: ART came from San Francisco's Market Street Prototyping Festival that launched in 2015, DeMarzo said. The festival unveiled 50 exhibits ranging from performance spaces, relaxation zones, educational spaces, green spaces and interactive art installations that were being considered for the redesign of the Market corridor (Palo Alto's new interactive sculpture, "Chime," in King Plaza, was first exhibited at the San Francisco festival).

DeMarzo said the Palo Alto festival will be smaller than San Francisco's but will use the same outreach strategy to help determine which installations could become permanent.

"I like the very public nature of experimentation. The 'prototypes' can help the public explore," DeMarzo said. "We have a fantastic creative brain trust here. I can't wait to see what ideas come out of the community."

Code: ART is part of a larger, long-term plan to integrate more art into Palo Alto over the next 10 years as outlined in the Public Art Master Plan that was approved on May 19 by the Public Art Commission and going to the City Council in August.

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