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Relocation or bust: Arts commission seeks new space for Singer statue

Los Altos Public Arts Commission members hope to have a bronze sculpture of Walter Singer relocated from the Los Altos History Museum to the Chamber of Commerce property by the end of the year.

Walter Singer
Town Crier File Photo
A bronze sculpture of Walter Singer graces Veterans Community Plaza in 2014, above. The bust was removed and put in storage in 2015. The Public Arts Commission plans to display it once again.

The bust of the late downtown Los Altos businessman, known by local residents as “Mr. Los Altos,” has remained in storage at the museum since 2015. The sculpture had previously been on display in Veterans Community Plaza since 1993, but it was removed when city leaders wanted to create more open space in the plaza.

Singer was a popular business leader in Los Altos, renowned for his volunteerism and good nature. In addition to volunteering for local organizations such as the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Los Altos Village Association, he spearheaded major community events such as the Festival of Lights Parade. The businessman also became known for combating stigma around HIV, after he contracted the disease in 1989. Singer helped found the Rotary Club’s Los Altos Rotary AIDS Project, which raised awareness and promoted public education about the disease. He died in 1992.

The Public Arts Commission’s plans to relocate the Singer bust have stalled in the past few years, due to difficulties finding a new space to display it. The process for relocating the bust has taken longer than expected in part because the sculpture is larger than normal and requires a substantial amount of dedicated space, according to Nancy Ellickson, chairperson of the Public Arts Commission. The group hopes to finalize relocation by the end of the year, but the timeline is not a guarantee, she added.

“We’d like it to be done more quickly than not, but our staff have been overburdened with a lot of stuff,” Ellickson said. “I think especially in (the) last couple of years, things have been increasingly chaotic, particularly with this pandemic.”

The commission held a meeting March 25 to discuss the remaining steps for moving the bust, which included finding a vendor to create a pedestal. The city has earmarked $10,000 for the sculpture’s relocation. While funding for the project is adequate, the commission must follow specific city protocols in purchasing the pedestal from vendors. The process has proven to be another obstacle that has delayed the bust’s relocation, according to Ellickson.

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t think that commission members are experienced with the purchasing process, so we’re relying on city staff to identify a vendor and have it made,” she said.

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