Fiberglass bear

Two dozen fiberglass bears were installed at various locations Friday along Main and State streets in Los Altos. Another 27 are due to be on display by July 1.

For those who enjoy colorful public art, downtown Los Altos will be bearing a lot of it.

The first 24 of the 51 fiberglass bears painted and decorated by artists for the Rotary Club of Los Altos’ project dubbed Los Altos Bears were installed at various locations Friday along Main and State streets. An additional 27 bears are due to be out on the streets by July 1.

The bears’ downtown installations received the approval of the city’s Public Arts Commission last Thursday.

“The Arts Commission is pleased to be partnering with Rotary in support of the Los Altos Bears event,” said Nancy Ellickson, commission chairperson. “And we are working along with other Los Altos-based groups to help promote these incredible bears coming to our town.”

A fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Los Altos, the project is the brainchild of organizer Carol Dabb, a Rotarian and professional art consultant.

Sponsors pay an initial cost for the bears, with proceeds going to the Rotary Club. Then a Rotary committee selects groups of artists to decorate them. After being displayed through the summer and early fall in the downtown area, the bears will be auctioned off Oct. 9, with the Rotary Club and the artists receiving a portion of the proceeds. Money raised will go toward a wide range of Rotary-sponsored community programs.

The theme for the Los Altos Bears project is “Celebrate Coming Out of Pandemic Hibernation.”

“This is a community public art event, engaging local artists, students and various art groups,” Dabb said. “Los Altos Bears will support local businesses and restaurants, bringing visitors to our town.”

Bears come in four different sizes – from 20-inch-long sitting bears to grizzly-sized giants at 8-feet-by-5-feet.

So far, Dabb has tallied nine 5-foot bears on sidewalks, an 8-footer at Veterans Community Plaza and 13 smaller bears atop wine barrels at the Main and State street parklets. One more is located at Los Altos Hardware on First Street.

Dabb said she was inspired by the “Cows on Parade” campaign in Chicago that started approximately 20 years ago and has raised millions for charities.

Karen Druker of Los Altos Hills, an artist, art juror and curator, noted some of the bears were delayed in transit.

“Frustrated artists have been waiting six weeks for the arrival of their bears,” she said.

Druker has painted five of the bears herself, including a “handyman” bear for Los Altos Hardware.

“The hope is that the ‘Bear Happening’ will make Los Altos an art destination and will improve business downtown, as viewers need to eat, drink and hopefully shop, too, in our wonderful town,” Druker said. “They are going to make Los Altos a fun place to visit.”

QR Code online auction bidding is available throughout the summer.

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