“Art in public spaces enriches our community, enlivens downtown, and lifts our spirits.”
In earlier posts, I have described ways our community could improve the vibrancy of downtown Menlo Park. I have also expressed a strong belief that these kinds of changes would happen only if, and when, residents and business owners initiated, led, and drove them forward. While the support of Menlo Park city government and the Chamber of Commerce is essential, others need to do most of the work. The owner of Bistro Vida, Ali El Safy, is an outstanding example of what is possible when this happens. Ali has built beautiful outdoor dining areas in front of his restaurant, created the new weekly Bon Marche market on Santa Cruz Avenue and invested his own time and money in making the new downtown community plaza an inviting place for residents to relax, socialize and attend events. These changes have already made a huge difference to the east end of downtown, and Ali has plans to do more. Other restaurant owners have also created attractive outdoor dining spaces.
Last year, I invited residents to consider how they could personally help transform our downtown. Two residents, Christine Duval and Debbie Hall, contacted me, and we soon decided to create Elevate Art Menlo Park, a new local nonprofit that brings engaging contemporary art to public spaces in downtown Menlo Park. You can learn about our roles and their excellent capabilities and backgrounds here. Our first art installation is now prominently displayed at the west end of downtown Santa Cruz Avenue on the exterior of the Menlo Church Student Center. Under the Wide Sky We Gather, created by a local artist, Carrie Lederer, is a colorful and lively, 5’ x 15’ vinyl mural mounted on a wood platform. The planning for our next art project is underway and others are targeted for 2022.
Unlike traditional public art programs, Elevate Art Menlo Park displays art on private property, e.g., in shop windows and on exterior building walls, rather than in civic spaces, and art is fully funded with private donations rather than with public grants. (Note: Menlo Park once had a public arts program, but it was discontinued years ago after producing lots of frustrations and few art installations.) The Almanac published a story about Elevate Art Menlo Park earlier this month.
How You Can Help
Elevate Art Menlo Park needs BOTH Menlo Park and Atherton community members to help us bring wonderful outdoor art to our downtown. Please contact us if you are interested in contributing in one of the following roles.
• Building owners display art either on the exterior walls of buildings or in vacant storefronts, and we take care of everything. Please note that art is attached rather than painted directly on walls and can easily be installed and removed without harming properties.
• Business tenants display art either inside their businesses or in storefronts, and we take care of everything. These temporary installations are easily installed, updated, and removed without business disruptions.
• Individual donors and company sponsors fund our art projects and programs. Donations qualify for tax deductions and can be made either online or by check. San Francisco-based, Intersection for the Arts is our fiscal sponsor.
• Volunteers contribute as either project leaders or individual contributors. For example, we are currently looking for a leader to manage our upcoming “pop-up” art program and have already identified volunteers who want to help.
• Bay Area artists and photographers can create and display their original works in exhibits and at events.
Now is The Time To Act
The Menlo Park and Atherton communities have tremendous opportunities to enliven downtown Menlo Park. Let’s not waste them!
Make A Donation
• Online: Use this link
• By Check:
Write "Intersection for the Arts" as the payee
Write Elevate Art Menlo Park in the memo line
Mail to: Intersection for the Arts, 1446 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
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