The recent construction in downtown Los Altos has not only changed the appearance of the city’s crosswalks, but has also made room for new art.
At the end of September, city employees installed five sculptures at intersections along Main and State streets and Edith Avenue.
The new works are drawing mixed reactions from visitors, which is not a surprise to Laurel Iverson, a member of the Los Altos Public Sculpture Committee.
“Art is very subjective,” she said.
Passerby Wynee Dobyns of Cupertino said the modern sculptures are not something you would typically think of for Los Altos.
“For Los Altos, it’s very avant-garde,” said Dobyns, who added that the different textures on the “Jasper Priestess” sculpture at Main and Second streets caught her eye.
Los Altos resident Lisa Vellequette described “Jasper Priestess” as “powerful and elegant.”
“It’s always good when a city embraces art,” she said. “Plus, they are great conversation pieces. I’ve talked with my son about them a lot. He’s 11.”
Mark Nadim said the landscape overpowers “Danseuse,” the sculpture at State and Second streets.
“It’s nice,” the Palo Alto resident said. “It’s just not noticeable.”
Nadim’s wife, Sandra, agreed, opining that “Danseuse” would stand out more with lights shining on it or if it were constructed with different colors.
The other new sculptures are “Redwood Prayer” and “African Trees” at Main and Third streets, and “Dancing Heron” at Edith Avenue and First Street.
“I like them,” Denise Irby of Los Altos said. “They are very modernistic.”
Los Altos resident Ben Director agreed that the sculptures enhance the beauty of Los Altos, but he said he doesn’t understand why so much work has gone into the crosswalks – he would prefer the money be spent on marketing to attract more business to downtown stores.
Each sculpture fits in a 2-foot-by-2-foot base placed in the public right-of-way. The spaces for the new downtown sculptures were in the original plans for the updated intersections, Iverson said, and each work is deemed appropriate for family viewing.
“It’s all about family in this town,” she said.
When downtown construction is complete, two more sculptures are scheduled for installation on First Street, according Karen Zucker, vice chairwoman of the Public Sculpture Committee. That would bring the number of public sculptures in Los Altos to 25.
The new sculptures are part of a two-year loan program in which the city agreed to pay $1,000 to borrow each. The artists, all from California, were selected after submitting photographs of their artwork to the committee members, who voted for their favorites and presented them to the Los Altos City Council. The council has final say on which sculptures are selected for installation, she said.
At the end of the two-year loan, Iverson said one of three things can happen: the artists may take back their work (which the committee will replace with another piece), the committee can ask the artist to extend the loan for two more years or a community member may purchase the piece from the artist.