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Art In Public Places

Original post made by Art Connoisseur on Feb 13, 2008

Would anyone be interested in having more art offered in Menlo Park? This could be available in many ways, such as dance, music in a variety of forms, theatre, painting, sculpture, museums and so on.

The newly formed Menlo Park Visioning Committee members are reviewing many forms of " brick and mortor". This is important in terms of structure, but may leave out the element and component of art in public places.

Menlo Park used to have an Arts Commission consisting of seven volunteer citizens, much like the Bicycle, Library, Parks and Recreation and other City Council Commissions. The Arts Commission ended in year 2004. Yet in Palo Alto, Atherton and a variety of other Bay Area cities, Art Commissions are thriving and have become active parts of the process of governance.

Why is this? Perhaps because art for many, adds to our lives. It may be considered the icing on the cake. It adds pazzazz, it adds fun and it contributes to our culture.

Some feels without art, life becomes sterile. With art, spirits are lifted with our eyes and ears filled with what only music and other forms of art can provide.

For my nickel, Menlo Park needs to re-activate its Arts Commission. Theater, concerts, museums and the like are found all around us. Perhaps with a little focus here in town on this topic, we won't need to drive as far and enjoy what only art can do in our own backyard.

Comments (18)

Posted by Sally Gambol, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2008 at 11:52 am

Hi Jim. Hi Dick. Thanks for laying off the all-caps this time.


Posted by why, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 14, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Jim, can you just be honest and stop playing pseudonym games? It just erodes your position when the position is not at all something to hide from.


Posted by Nancy Chillag, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 14, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Art can create a well-rounded, vibrant community. Driving up Middlefield Road the beautiful mural on the side of Mike's Cafe welcomes people to our city. The stone couches growing on Willow Road remind us of a time when this entire area was agricultural and commemorate the transformation of our town into a suburban community. The stained-glass pieces on Santa Cruz Avenue make the stroll down the street so much more enjoyable. Menlo Park has an opportunity to have wonderful artwork incorporated into the new developments that will be proposed for El Camino. This opportunity should not be lost.


Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 14, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I've commented on this in the past, September 7 for example:

"A recent posting on the council email log about giving a $-per-square foot incentive from fees for historical property. This sounds eerily like the ill-fated '% for Arts' ordinance that was adopted and revoked. The %-for-Arts ordinance was well-intended, but it was mismanaged and misapplied. The baby was thrown out with the bathwater. I have said that this type of ordinance was meant for the types of projects we see, and will continue to see, on El Camino."

Web Link

Public art should be a component of renovation of El Camino.

Stu Soffer


Posted by Sue Borg, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 14, 2008 at 6:57 pm

I find the comment that %-for-Arts ordinance was mismanaged and misapplied curious, since it had so little time to be managed or applied at all. The debacle that occurred with the unceremonious repeal of this much needed ordinance leaves me fearful that the Menlo Park City Council has neither the vision nor the spirit to embrace art as part of the lifeblood of our city as our more enlightened neighbors have done. Unfortunately, the impact of this deficit is quite stark as you drive through much of Menlo Park. I would very much welcome public art in all its forms in Menlo Park, though I don't feel optimistic that we will have this opportunity any time soon.


Posted by Jim Lewis, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 14, 2008 at 9:01 pm

I am a big believer in the concept of "encouraging" programs of community benefit, and when possible, even to provide "incentives" to do so.

The percent for art program "forced" folks to provide art. This may have resulted in resentment, anger, hostility where one was forced to cooperate.

Instead, it is nice to relie on the human spirit where one has the OPTION, but not the OBLIGATION, to provide art in public places. If the program I'm suggesting is managed well, it has the potential of a community rich with cultural expressions for generations to come.

Incidentally, the person above suggesting I use my own name is RIGHT ON. However, I find it curious that they used a fictious name themselves. Isn't this a bit hypocritical, that is "do as I say, but not as I do".

Art comes in many forms. Given a chance, art has the potential to transform an everyday experience into a cultural bonanza. In small and large ways, art can be magical. Given a chance, the human experience can be enhanced and enriched.

The question is, will the City Council consider incorporating the concept for our future and generations to come? I trust the answer will be yes.


Posted by Sparky Campanella, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 16, 2008 at 4:39 pm

When I first visited Palo Alto and saw the varied and vibrant public art, my first thought was that someone really cared about the quality of life in that city. Art appeals to our senses as well as our sensibilities, it is a visual representation of the different points of view that make up a vibrant community. Menlo Park is a lovely community in many ways and could be even more appealing if the City Council realized the extent to which art enriches our lives and opens our minds. We have a small number of sites in Menlo Park where public art has turned a generic location into something noteworthy and dynamic. We need more.


Posted by Jim Lewis, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 16, 2008 at 7:32 pm

I'm encouraged by the above comments, most of which are very positive. Art does make a difference, and that is probably one reason why so many other cities both to the north and the south of Menlo Park have active Art Commissions. In Menlo Park, we have an Art Commission, but the council has not directed the City Clerk to accept applications from the general public. The Art Commission is on the books, its on the website, it is shown as one of the official city commissions on the multi-commission application form, but presently there is nobody on it. Strange indeed.

Just as the Library has a Friends of the Library as an advocate for library services, and just as the Library has a Library Commission appointed by the City Council and a host of other groups and organizations waiving the flag for parks, recreation, bicycles, environmental quality, transportation issues and so on, perhaps the way for Art in Public Places to receive the respect and support needed, it may be time, if not long overdue, to re-activate the Menlo Park City Council - Art Commission.


Posted by forget this, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 16, 2008 at 8:50 pm

The fifedom run by Nancy Chillag was finally torn down -- we don't need a return to this anytime. We don't need another arts committee. If a major project needs some type of art, it should be negotiated at the time of approval.

I'm surprised to see Stuart Soffer bring this up == he knows better.

forget this


Posted by Clio, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 19, 2008 at 11:06 am

I disagree. Bring back the Art Committee!


Posted by Art Lover, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 20, 2008 at 11:18 am

Yes, bring back the Art Commission. Don't miss this golden opportunity to make Menlo Park's portion of the Grand Boulevard first class.

The "fifedom" referred to above was a valuable center of creativity and energy that could have helped this town raise itself above the image of cookie-cutter mediocrity. Now that the three mediocre council members whose lack of any community and artistic vision derailed the Art Commission are gone, maybe the current council can reinstate the commission to help conceive a plan for El Camino.


Posted by Hungry for Art, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 21, 2008 at 12:12 pm

So why was the commission disbanded? Is there any interest on the council to revive it? I vaguely recall Andy Cohen expressing interest in it. Public art could really jazz this dull town up a bit. But you can bet nothing will ever happen unless a group focused on such a program works out the details and becomes an advocate.


Posted by Yes, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:55 pm

What a fantastic idea


Posted by yes sir, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Great idea


Posted by super, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Great, lets do it


Posted by Ugo, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Super idea to make our town look nicer and people happier


Posted by Allforit, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm

We love art.


Posted by Jim Lewis, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2008 at 10:32 pm

It looks to me like many of the messages above were all written by the same person, but using different names. I like all the comments however. Bravo.

Recently I've looked around Menlo Park to see if I could find any "art in public places." To my surprise, I found art in many locations. Here's a few examples.

1) Above the door entrance to the Menlo Park Library and again inside on the first wall you see. Both items are georgeous.

2) On the side wall of Mike's Cafe located on Middlefield Road to greet you each day as you enter one of the "gateways" to Menlo Park.

3) Facing Willow Road at a park located about half way between Middllefield Road and Bayshore Freeway 101. It is made of stone and definately gets you thinking.

4) On a wall outside the Long's store in Sharon Heights, which is quite interesting and is certainly an improvements over what might otherwise be a plain painted stucco wall.

5) An interesting metal and artistic "bench" located at the 7-11 Store near the corner of Oak Grove Avenue and Alma Street. A small plaque next to it tells a story.

6) A wonderful looking set of deer metal of bronze located on Middlefield Road in front of the Merrill Lynch offices. I find it a delight to the eyes everything I drive by.

7) Many examples at the Menlo Park Civic Center donated by civic spirited citizens and business people. You have to go there to see them to fully appreciate their value.

8) And don't forget the twenty (20) stained glass windows located in corner wood kiosks along Santa Cruz Avenue, for six full blocks. They start at El Camino Real and continue to Peet's Coffee at University Ave. These were created by Gini McAfee approx. 25 years ago, in 1982, and have withstood the test of time.

9) Seminary Oaks Park has a cute little cat to greet you upon arrival, comnplete with a nifty little watering dish for your cat, or dog. Perhaps more parks should have this type of feature.

10) There are examples of wall murals at many of the local elementary and middle scholls throughout town. One example can be found at Hillview School on Santa Cruz Avenue and another at the school on Willow Road.

These are just ten examples. Many more can be found with a bit of sleuthing. Perhaps a task of an Arts Commission would be to put together a Driving or Walking Tour of "Art in Public Places" located in Menlo Park. This would be a nice pamphlet or booklet to have for your family or perhaps out of town guests.

Bottom line, art offers culture and culture is what helps make a civilization. Menlo Park has the opportunity to contribute their share of art for their citizens. The question is, does the City Council support this along with citizens within the community. I know I do, do you?


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