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Art on the go: How SF museum closure inspired the upcoming "Project Los Altos"


Photo By: Courtesy of SFMOMA
Photo Courtesy Of Sfmoma

Artist Jeremy Blake&#8217s &#8220Century 21&#8221 is from his series &#8220Winchester, 2004.&#8221 Blake is among the artists participating in &#8220Project Los Altos SFMOMA in Silicon Valley.&#8221

When the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art closed for renovations June 2, curators launched the two-and-a-half-year expansion project with traveling “SFMOMA On the Go” displays.

One outreach exhibition, “Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley,” is scheduled to open in downtown Los Altos and run from Nov. 9 through March 2.

Taylor Robinson, former co-director of Passerelle Investment Co., knew a trustee at SFMOMA with whom she discussed the company’s mission to revitalize downtown Los Altos.

“We introduced ‘Project Los Altos’ to Passerelle and they said it would be great” to see contemporary art in the city, said SFMOMA curator Janet Bishop.

Last fall, Robinson and Amanda Tevis, a former co-director of Passerelle, approached Los Altos Mayor Jarrett Fishpaw and City Manager Marcia Somers with the idea.

“I said yes immediately,” said Somers, adding that she is now focusing on what the city can do to enhance the experience for Los Altos residents.

Although the city “doesn’t have the kind of money to contribute cash,” Somers said, it plans to “contribute in-kind.”

Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier has pledged his support, and Somers foresees the Public Arts Commission developing an educational component to “Project Los Altos.”

“Public art enhances life in the community, and here we have a strong history of that,” Somers said.

Because the exhibition is scheduled around the holidays, Somers added that organizers count on new visitors to Los Altos who may have just driven by in the past.

Passerelle Director Brooke Ray Smith, who earned two degrees in urban planning, deems public art “a hot topic right now as a way to catalyze community vitality.”

Smith said she hopes “Project Los Altos” will redefine contemporary art for audiences.

“It’s not really a scary thing that has to be in whitewashed walls in echoing hallways,” she said. “It’s something that you can experience every day that you might walk by in the downtown.”

The museum chose nine artists to participate in “Project Los Altos,” two whose projects have ties to the city and seven with newly commissioned works.

The exhibition, scheduled at various venues in Los Altos, both indoors and out, will include the work of artists Jeremy Blake, Spencer Finch, Charles Garoian, Christian Jankowski, Chris Johanson, Mike Mills, Katerina Sedá, Alec Soth and Jessica Stockholder.

The works of Blake and Garoian boast Los Altos connections. The Winchester Mystery House inspired Blake’s “Winchester” animation trilogy from the SFMOMA collection. Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune and the violence on which it was built, owned the 100 acres that later became the city of Los Altos.

Garoian’s video of a performance-art project, “Drill Team: Homecoming Parade 1974,” features his Los Altos High School art students. (For more on Garoian, see the June 12 Town Crier).

For more information, visit www.sfmoma.org/about/press/press_exhibitions/releases/960.

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