In the latest Around Town column, learn about Palo Alto's newest public art installation, East Palo Alto Academy's award from the state and the police chief's time in a Star Wars film.
THE SEASON OF BLUE ... Spring brings blooming tulips, fresh strawberries and ... blue trees? It may be hard to believe, but the shade of blue will soon become a reality for eight magnolias outside Palo Alto City Hall. Locals can take part in the $20,000 project by applying the blue pigment with brushes and rollers from Monday, May 14, to Friday, May 18, Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo said. The material is a non-toxic, organic and water-based colorant that is safe for plants, animals, insects and people, she said. Painters will apply the color on the tree trunks and larger branches, but will stop short of the leaves. They will be joined by the artist, Konstantin Dimopoulos, who has brought the project to many international destinations including Sydney, Australia; Singapore and Canada. On Wednesday, May 16, he will give a talk on the project and join a discussion with Catherine Martineau, executive director at nonprofit Canopy, and Walter Passmore, a city urban forester, on local and regional forestry issues and initiatives. Fittingly, the band John Henry's Farm will add more color to the event with its bluegrass music. The talk, discussion and performance will be held at King Plaza from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The installation will be for nine months to a year, during which time the pigment is expected to fade, according to DeMarzo. Most of the city's past public art projects have involved bringing in a sculpture or an object into a place, but this piece of work utilizes its given space. "In this case, we're really using the trees as the medium for the installation — it's a completely different idea," she said. For more information on the project, visit cityofpaloalto.org/publicart.
'LEADERS OF TOMORROW' ... East Palo Alto Academy is one of six schools across the state to earn a Civic Learning Award of Distinction from the California Department of Education this year. To mark the achievement, a state judicial officer will tour the campus and attend a celebration for three programs at the public charter school, which serves students in grades 9 -12, on Friday, May 11, from 3-4 p.m. "It's refreshing to see how creative educators and motivated students learn about the power of democracy," California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a press release. "These courses and programs help motivate our leaders of tomorrow." Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson co-sponsored the award program, where expert judges selected the winners based on the depth and breadth of the civic learning curriculum. The academy's student government courses dive into different models of leadership while organizing cultural celebrations, engaging the campus community and advocating for marginalized communities. The annual exhibition assigns students a global issue to explore based on their grade level: freshmen learn about sustainable engineering, sophomores focus on genocides, juniors study social movements and seniors identify needs within East Palo Alto and envision solutions through "Compassion in the Community" projects. Advisory classes connect students with local organizations such as the Ecumenical Hunger Program and Youth United for Community Action, where they complete community service hours and apply their lessons into the real world. "We are so proud of our students, teachers, and staff for being recognized in such a special way, for their daily work to empower themselves and others," Principal Amika Guillaume said in a statement.
TAKING ON THE FORCE ... Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen tweeted a little-known fact about himself on Friday, May 4, that sent shock waves all over the Twitterverse — he was cast as an Imperial Stormtrooper in "Return of the Jedi," the third movie in the original Star Wars trilogy. The announcement coincided with the unofficial holiday for the well-established film franchise, when many take advantage of the date to greet "May the 4th Be With You," to one another. "My service to the Galactic Empire abruptly ended when Luke ran me into a tree. I awoke and have since been a member of a greater force — Public Safety," he wrote. Jonsen's wife, Kristie, corroborated his time on screen by tweeting a photo of the chief in the black-and-white costume plus an autographed picture by actor Mark Hamill, who played the main protagonist Luke Skywalker.