History Museum Program Highlights Public Art

By October 12, 2021Press Releases

LOS ALTOS, CA (Oct 12, 2021) Arts Los Altos has made a big difference in the downtown area by implementing public art for the community’s enjoyment. Learn more about this local nonprofit and what they’re doing to beautify, invigorate, and brand the community, in an online program titled “Arts Los Altos: Public Art and Placemaking,” hosted by Los Altos History Museum on Thurs, Nov 4, 7-8:30pm.


Maddy McBirney and Karen Zucker, co-directors of Arts Los Altos, work with artists, property owners, and the Los Altos community to install curated public art to create a more vibrant and inviting downtown. In the presentation, they will discuss the role of public art in creating a sense of place, which often includes a sense of history and the past, by showing images of successful public art locally and abroad. They will also share plans for future projects.


“We look at ordinary public spaces and envision how to make them more beautiful and more welcoming for the community by creating the feeling of an outdoor living room where anyone can enjoy art,” McBirney said. “You don’t have to go to a Museum to see the art, or buy a work to display at home. Public art is always there for you to enjoy.”


The works they install may be interactive, like the mural “200 Main Street [an inventory of time and place]” by Martha Sakellariou, located on the large exterior wall of Satura Patisserie on Third Street. The mural features a QR code that allows viewers to learn more about the various items included in the piece, many of which are housed in the Los Altos History Museum’s Collection.


Maddy McBirney serves as director of Development and Outreach for Arts Los Altos. While volunteering on the Public Arts Commission in Los Altos, she developed “The Artistic Bike Rack Design Competition,” an art project resulting in approximately ten racks, designed and selected by the community, and then manufactured and installed. After attending several Public Art and Placemaking conventions across the US, Maddy was inspired to bring outdoor public art to Los Altos. She taught art at Almond School and volunteered as an Art Docent.


Karen Zucker met McBirney while also volunteering on the Public Arts Commission, and the two shared their passion for outdoor art by co-founding Arts Los Altos in 2019. It was during her time on the Commission that Zucker developed her skills to implement public art and placemaking. In her role as Director of Communication & Development, Zucker helps with grant writing, outreach and recruiting. She has been a Los Altos Art Docent for over 15 years, teaching art in the Los Altos School District.


“We’re excited to present this program and raise awareness on what’s involved with turning public art into a reality, and how art can make change, and be a collaboration with, a community,” McBirney said.


The program is in support of the exhibition “Annie Knapp Fitz Paints: a Legacy in Art” on display in the Museum’s Main Gallery through Feb 6, 2022. The painter depicted scenes of life in the Santa Clara Valley in the early 1900s.


To register for the free program, which will be held on Zoom, go to losaltoshistory.org/ArtsLosAltos.

Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.


The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours subject to docent availability. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email hello@losaltoshistory.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.


Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10,