With its earth tones and short stature, the “Mutha Hen” statue largely melds into the landscape fronting the Pho Cabin restaurant at the corner of State and Third streets. Passersby have gotten used to the chicken – described by its creator as “a friendly barnyard hen” – and its presence in downtown Los Altos over the past two years.
But now, the hen has got to go.
Nicknamed “The Big Chicken” by the Los Altos Public Arts Commission, “Mutha Hen” will soon be reclaimed by sculptor Eileen Fitz-Faulkner. Although the commission sought to extend the sculpture’s perch in front of 200 State St. for an additional two years through the city’s sculpture loan program, Fitz-Faulkner denied the request.
According to Commissioner Hilary King, “Mutha Hen” is up for grabs for $7,800 if someone wants it for their own home or if they’d like to purchase it and donate it to the city. Fitz-Faulkner told the Town Crier that her decision not to allow the city an extension is largely based around her desire to turn her art into more of a business than a hobby.
“‘Mutha Hen’ is kind of just waiting out there, and I’m loaning it with goodwill, hoping it will be a fit for the area,” Fitz-Faulkner said in a phone call. “Part of it is appreciating art, supporting art, paying artists.”
Fitz-Faulkner said she appreciates that the chicken is loved and helps enliven the downtown, bringing people back to the rural roots of the area. If someone purchased the piece and donated it to the city, she would be happy. Fitz-Faulkner values how Los Altos residents value art, because that is not present in every city.
“We did want residents to know why ‘Mutha Hen’ may disappear soon and what if anything they could do about it,” King said in an email.
Other pieces of art may soon be exiting downtown as well.
“Midnight Stomp Series,” a three-part, metal bird ensemble created by Arizona-based artist Pokey Park, will be removed from its home in front of Safeway on First Street unless Park agrees to the commission’s upcoming request for extension; the piece was previously granted an extension in 2017.
“Jasper Priestess,” loaned to the city by Los Angeles artist Damien Jones in 2011, is also up for removal unless Jones grants a fifth extension that would keep his work at Main and Second streets.
As the commission works to keep the sculptures within city limits, it is simultaneously issuing a call for new art for the loan program. Many of the sculptures that are part of Los Altos’ permanent Public Sculpture program were once part of the loan program.
Artists whose work is chosen for the loan program receive a stipend of $5,000. Entries are due by March 18. To apply, visit losaltosca.gov/publicartscommission/page/call-art-2020.
For more information on Fitz-Faulkner and her work, visit scapeartsculpture.com.