In the latest Around Town column, news about an outdoor installation that exudes positivity, the long-awaited reopening of Palo Alto playgrounds and a first look inside Caltrain's new electrified train cars.
A WORD OF ADVICE ... A familiar Palo Alto public art project offers comforting and inspiring messages that many of us could hear six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. "Love is everywhere, look for it." "Keep moving. Keep playing. Keep dreaming." "Take more chances. Make more friends." These are the phrases included in artist Susan O'Malley's "Community Advice" project installed Sept. 30 outside of the Palo Alto Art Center along Embarcadero Road. "The power of public art to stimulate discussion and bring communities together at this difficult time cannot be underestimated," Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo stated in a press release. "We hope that viewers will connect with O'Malley's uplifting work and ask themselves what advice they might give to others and why." The work is hard to miss — three oversized posters are plastered with bright colors that radiate positivity. As part of the project commission in 2012, O'Malley posed the following question to 100 people in Palo Alto: "What advice would you give your 8-year-old self? What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?" O'Malley previously said that hearing advice from other people helps form a bond that can bring a renewed sense of connection, which can be hard to find in Silicon Valley, according to the release. "I wanted to create this project because I think it's easy to forget how wise we can be," she said. "We resist our internal wisdom because of fear, fatigue, inconvenience, or any number of reasons." O'Malley, who died in 2015, was a Bay Area-based artist whose work was featured in international exhibits.
BACK IN MOTION ... Palo Alto parents yearning for when they can take their children out for a fun and relaxing afternoon at their local park will soon have their first opportunity since shelter-in-place orders were first issued. The city began a gradual reopening of the recreational spaces on Oct. 5. The decision to reopen the spaces came after Community Services Department staff reviewed the latest orders issued by the state and Santa Clara County. (On Sept. 28, the California Department of Public Health released guidelines that allow outdoor playgrounds to reopen with safety measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.) Leading up to the phased reopening, the city's parks team cleaned the structures, conducted safety checks and added new signs. Visitors will be required to wear a face covering if they are over 2 years old. They're also encouraged to maintain physical distance from people outside of their household, wash their hands and stay home if they're not feeling well or show symptoms of COVID-19. The one popular open space that will remain closed for now is the Magical Bridge Playground at Mitchell Park due to its limited space and an expected high number of visitors (when open, the attraction typically draws in more than 25,000 people per month). The public is also advised to not bring food, drinks or toys if they visit a playground. Anyone who sees someone violating health order violations is asked to call the city's 24/7 dispatch line at 650-329-2413. For a list of opened parks, visit cityofpaloalto.org.
ALL ABOARD ... Caltrain is giving the public a free ticket to its electric trains currently in production through a new virtual reality tour. Viewers will have a chance to see how the trains will look during day or night trips and get a sneak peek at a new seat color palette. The tour also includes an interactive map to see the lower, middle and upper areas of the cars, plus new digital onboard displays and power sources for seats facing forward. Viewers will also notice the train's energy-efficient lighting, security cameras and expanded storage space under cantilevered seats. Bicyclists can get a sense of how their two-wheeled vehicles will fit into bike cars, which were designed based on public feedback and input from the agency's Bicycle Advisory Committee. More amenities have been added to train bathrooms, including a baby changing station, coat hooks and a vacuum toilet. The trains are currently being assembled in Utah and will become part of the rail corridor service once Caltrain's tracks are electrified. To take the tour, visit calmod.org.