City Council Lifestyle

We rate Los Altos Public Art – love it or hate it

How much public art do the people really want? Who pays?
Written by lalahpolitico

See how the surveyed public ranks our existing Los Altos public artworks- 38 of them. What’s liked and what…not so much. Easily compare your “taste” to the public’s likes and dislikes!

About 340 people responded to a survey asking their opinion of  City of Los Altos public art. About six months ago, Los Altos resident Pat Marriott prepared the SURVEY, fielded it on and prepared the resulting REPORT for City Council.  In this post, Lalahpolitico presents some of the highlights of her report for your perusal and edification with photos…The public answers the question, “Who should pay for public art?…

See how the surveyed public ranks our existing Los Altos public art works. What’s liked and what…not so much. There were 358 respondents to a survey asking their opinion of  City of Los Altos public art. About six months ago, Los Altos resident Pat Marriott prepared the SURVEY, fielded it on and prepared the resulting REPORT.  In this post Lalahpolitico presents some of the highlights for your perusal and edification.

For each of 38 public art works, people were asked a single question:

single question

Please Note: For each art work, (Love+Like) + No opinion + (Hate+Dislike) = 100%

To Lalahpolitco the survey results indicate that respondents are reacting emotionally to each work with either positive feelings, no particular feeling, or negative feelings. However, they are also reacting to the location sometimes.

Does your personal taste agree or disagree with the following rankings?

Besides the 38 pieces of art she found around town, Ms. Marriot decided to include two places she consider’s nature’s works of art – Redwood Grove and the Apricot Orchard. Lalahpolitico: It is not too surprising theses places WITHOUT ART ranked higher than even well-like Los Altos public art.  This hints at the issue of what places in the city should have public art and those which should not. Sometimes less is more. The RANK is assigned by Love+Like percentage.

Redwood Grove


Title: Redwood Grove Nature Preserve Artist: Mother Nature Location: 482 University Ave. Size: XXXL. Style: Representational It’s alive!
Love+Like 92%,
Hate+Dislike 1%


Los Altos Civic Center Apricot Orchard


Title: Los Altos Heritage Orchard Artist: J. Gilbert Smith family Location: Los Altos City Hall Size: XXXL. Style: Representational. It’s alive!

Love+Like 85%, Hate+Dislike 3%

Olympic Wannabes favorite public art in Los Altos


Title: Olympic Wannabes Artist: Glenna Goodacre Location: Village Park Donated by Los Altos Cultural Association. Size: L. Style: Representational
Love+Like 80%, Hate+Dislike 10%


Replica of Rodin's The Thinker


Title: Replica of The Thinker Artist: Auguste Rodin Location: Woodland Library Donated by Don and Sue Watters. Association. Size: L-XL. Style: Representational

Love+Like 75%, Hate+Dislike 11%


The Magic Fish


Title: Magic Fish Artist: Hardy Jones Location: Los Altos Main Library Donated by artist Size: M. Style: Abstract representational

Love+Like 74%, Hate+Dislike 11%


Smoke sculpture, silver metal plume


Title: Smoke Artist: Steve Bartlett Location: Almond Avenue Fire Station Donated by Los Altos Cultural Association. Size: L. Style: Abstract representational.
Love+Like 74%, Hate+Dislike 11%

Kahn Pharmacy Mural



Title: Kahns Artist: Jan Meyer Location: Third & Main

Size: L. Style: Representational

Love+Like 73%, Hate+Dislike 10%

Cradle of Liberty


Title: Cradle of Liberty Artist: Rebecca Joy Truman Location: Shoup Park Donated by the Veterans’ Memorial Association of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.   Size: L-XL. Style: Representational

Love+Like 69%, Hate+Dislike 12%


Egrets bas relief


Title: Egrets Artist: Zygmund Sazezich Location: Shoup Park Donated by Lou Ann O’Rourke. Size: M. Style: Representational

Love+Like 69%, Hate+Dislike 9%


Australian Cattle Dog


Title: Australian Cattle Dog. Artist: Anne Wienholt. Location: Los Altos Youth Center Anonymous donor. Size: S.
Style: Representational
Love+Like 68%, Hate+Dislike 14%

Zooscapes llamas



Title: Zoo Scapes Artist: Maggie Kornman Location: Main Library Donated by the Friends of theLibrary. Size: Medium. Style: Abstract Representational

Love+Like 68%, Hate+Dislike 14%

Midnight Stomp animals collection


Title: Midnight Stomp Series. Artist: Pokey Park. Location: 160 First Street On loan from artist. Size: Medium. Style: Representational

Love+Like 68%, Hate+Dislike 15%

Guardian - the girl dragonfly


Title: Guardian. Artist: Karen Cauvin Eustis. Location: State & Fourth Donated by artist. Size: Medium. Style: Representational

Love+Like 65%, Hate+Dislike 17%


May Fete Mural at Costume Bank


Title: May Fete Mural. Artist: Jan Meyer Location: Costume Bank

Size: Large .Style: Representational

Love+Like 64%, Hate+Dislike 13%




Title: Dragonfly Artist: Tammy Bickel Location: Rosita Park. On loan from artist. Size: L-XL Style: Representational.
Love+Like 61%, Hate+Dislike 17%


Conversation Peace


Title: Conversation Peace. Artist: Kevin Box. Location: 400 Main Street. Anonymous donor.Size: M-L Style: Representational.

Love+Like 61%, Hate+Dislike 25%


Dancing Man


Title: Dancing Man Artist: James Moore Location: Hillview Community Center Purchased by the city.

Size: L Style: Abstract representational.

Love+Like 58%, Hate+Dislike 25%





Title: Bird. Artist: Riis Burwell. Location: Lincoln Park On loan from the artist.

Size: L-XL. Style: Abstract representational.

Love+Like 57%, Hate+Dislike 20%

Doors Sculpture19

Title: Door Sculpture to Talk About the Idea of Different Possibilities You May Have to Process in YourLife. Artist: Chris Johanson Location: Lincoln Park Purchased through a combination of City funds andprivate contributions. Size: L-XL. Style: Abstract representational.
Love+Like 57% ,Hate+Dislike 31%



Title: Dancers Artist: Michele Alcantara Location: Grant Road & St. Joseph Avenue Donated by the artist.
Size: L-XL. Style: Abstract representational.
Love+Like 56%,
Hate+Dislike 19%

Musical Gambol


Title: Musical Gambol Artist: Robert Clements Location: Lincoln Park. Donated to the city.

Size: XL. Style: Abstract representational.
Love+Like 55%, Hate+Dislike 27%

Convolute of the Square


Title: Convolute of the Square Artist: Taro Seesurat Location: Grant &Fremont Donated by artist.

Size: L. Style: Abstract
Love+Like 55%, Hate+Dislike 22%


Magic Garden


Title: Magic Garden. Artist: Adrian Susnea Litman. Location: Village Park. On loan from artist.

Size: XL. Style: Abstract

Love+Like 55%, Hate+Dislike 18%

Seal Head


Title: Seal Head. Artist: Anne Wienholt. Location: Main Library. Donated by the Friends of the Library. Size: S. Style: Representational
Love+Like 54%, Hate+Dislike 24%


Sit a modern dog sculpture


Title: Sit Artist: Patricia Vader. Location: Grant Park. On loan from the artist. Size: M. Style: Abtract Representational   Love+Like 52%, Hate+Dislike 31%

CT 27


Title: CT 27. Artist: Richard Starks. Location: Heritage Oaks Park. On loan from artist.

Size: L. Style: Abstract   Love+Like 51%, Hate+Dislike 24%


Dancing Moon Rollers


Title: Dancing Moon Rollers. Artist: Reven Marie Swanson. Location: Los Altos Ave & W Edith. On loanfrom artist
Size: L-XL. Style: Abstract
Love+Like 47%, Hate+Dislike 33%


Diamond Jubilee


Title: Diamond Jubilee. Artist: Taro Seesurat. Location: Los Altos City Hall. Anonymous donor.
Size: L-XL. Style: Abstract
Love+Like 47%, Hate+Dislike 26%

Pax Nova


Title: Pax Nova. Artist: Bill Iaculla. Location: McKenzie Park. On loan from the artist.

Size: L-XL. Style: Abstract Representational
Love+Like 46%, Hate+Dislike 23%


Space Dance for Peace


Title: Space Dance for Peace. Artist: Mircea Paul Goreniuc. Location: Lincoln Park. Donated by the artist.

Size: L-XL. Style: Abstract   Love+Like 45%, Hate+Dislike 20%



Will You Dance With Me



Title: Will You Dance With Me. Artist: Ed Hart. Location: State & Second Street. Donated by the artist.

Size: M Style: Abstract Representational

Love+Like 44%, Hate+Dislike 35%

<span class="mks_dropcap_letter" style="font-size: 0px; color: "#000000"; background-color: "#86c5ef";">30</span> Title: Will You Dance With Me. Artist: Ed Hart. Location: State & Second Street. Donated by the artist. Size: M Style: Abstract   Love+Like 44%



Title: Jasper Priestess. Artist: Damien Jones. Location: Main & Second. On loan from artist.

Size: M Style: Abstract Representational

Love+Like 43%, Hate+Dislike 32%

Imagine That


Title: Imagine That. Artist: Tony Williams. Location: Lincoln Park. Donated by artist.

Size: L-XL Style: Abstract
Love+Like 42%, Hate+Dislike 30%

By the Sea...totem poles


Title: By the Sea. Artist: Jane Reyes. Location: Marymeade Park. On loan from the artist.

Size: L   Style: Abstract
Love+Like 42%, Hate+Dislike 20%


Singer Bust


Title: Walter Singer Bust Artist: Ingrid Jackson MacDonald Location: Temporary storage, HistoryMuseum. Listed on Smithsonian Art Inventory of sculpture in public places.
Size: M-L   Style: Representational
Love+Like 37%, Hate+Dislike 23%



Title: Arches.  Artist: Jeff Owen. Location: Second & State. On loan to the City from the artist.

Size: M-L   Style: Abstract
Love+Like 37%, Hate+Dislike 31%



Archimides Goose


Title: Archimedes Goose. Artist: Arnold Martin. Location: Springer Road and El Monte. On loan from the artist.

Size: XL   Style: Abstract
Love+Like 36%,  Hate+Dislike 49%



38 Title: Shlama Artist: Fred Parhad Location: Lincoln Park Donated by the Assyrian Arts Institute.Size: XL   Style: Abstract
Love+Like 36% , Hate+Dislike 31%

Who are the Respondents?…

The results of the demographics questions seem representative to me – especially the age distribution  However, the respondents skew female 2:1  and the “10% artists” is interesting.  But perhaps that is normal if you want to get a sample who are willing to take the time to take a survey about suburban public art. So Lalahpolitico is cool with the demographics.  And almost 300 disclosed that info. Good.

Table Survey Demographics



  1. 1. What’s Important when you select Los Altos
    Public Art?

    table: what's important selecting art

    75% of people said they do react emotionally to an artwork. Almost 60% also cared about how it fit into its location.

    2. Do you like the Los Altos Public Art Program?

    Table: Art Program like...

    Almost 3/4 like the Los Altos Public Art Program

    3. How to provide / pay for a
    Los Altos public art program?

    Table : pay for public art

    Only about 1/4 are will to pay for it through their taxes, out of City funds.

    The public is most interested in diverse ways to have other people pay for the Los Altos public art program. Continuing to just have the artists loan the art work – as is done now – is most popular at ~80%.  About 70% percent point out the City has not yet attempted to engage with loaner/swap programs – Museums, galleries, city-to-city swaps. ~40% would love to tax developers with a fee and ~25% want to tax them with a land dedication.

    Lalahpolitico Bottomline:


    My key takeaways from the survey:

    75% like having a Los Altos public art program; only 25% are willing to pay for it.

    Traditional, realistic, representational art – of living things – is the most preferred (#3 Olympic Wannabes )

    Abstract, stylized representations of living things are almost as well-liked. (#5 Magic Fish)

    100% abstract form is less liked (#22 Convolute of the Square)

    Being in a high traffic area, preferably easily viewed from a car, seems to contribute to a piece’s popularity. #3  to #17

    When only part of a living thing is depicted, it seems to evoke negative feelings of “what happened to the rest of it?” (#24 seal head, #31 – head and only half a torso, Will you dance with me, #35- Singer head – missing body, #37- headless neckless goose (ostrich?) Icky?

    The demographics of the survey — gender, age, residence– seem good.

    But this survey doesn’t tell us about which current locations should or should not have Los Altos public art. Perhaps locations #1 to #16 are well-suited for displaying large or extra large public art.  But what about all those crowded downtown sidewalks?  Is it the cramped sidewalk location or the art piece itself that makes  #31, #32 #35, #36 much less popular.

    The Los Altos Public Art Commissioners are always talking about wanting more and more new locations to display public art.  These should be vetted by some kind of public engagement process. 


    Suggestions for
    Los Altos Public Art Looking forward:

    Survey respondents already suggested the Public Art Program investigate loaner programs from Museums, galleries, etc. 

    The Los Altos Public Art Commissioners have been very disappointed that the City is not willing to provide funds from existing taxes or by imposing new fees on developers. They argue that with money to spend, the City could purchase higher quality art.  But who judges the quality?  The seven current members of Public Art Committee? And would a City purchased piece be a permanent piece?  Now under the current artist loan program, the many people who may DISLIKE or HATE a certain piece can have an expectation it may eventually be removed.

    We need much more transparency and public engagement. I think it is once or twice a year that the Los Altos Public Art Commission brings to city council a set of recommendations to add/replace 5 – 8 artworks . That’s typically the only time I look at the public art commission agenda attached reports, just to check that nothing horribly objectional-looking is being proposed in the wrong location. In the summer of 2017 the commission went off the rails with a proposal to place a 10-foot tall, space junk, rocket ship along San Antonio in front of the library. This would have been a new, very wrong location for public art. It was not approved.

    Surely, the Public Art Commission can engage the public before the last step in the selection process? Start simple – just ask the City PIO to put an online survey up on the website with the photo of the proposed art. The City Manager can promote the survey each week in his e-newsletter. Just use the same kind of art photo that’s been buried in the meeting agenda attachments! Ask Pat Marriot’s simple, straightforward question on the City survey.  If a brand new additional location for art is being proposed, test that out via the survey too. In future years, consider recruiting a commissioner who can photoshop the photo of the proposed artwork  at proper scale into a photo of the location at scale — photosimulation! And let’s vet those artistic bike racks too…some aren’t so practical for bike security.



    Author: Pat Marriott.

    Marriot’s Full Report .pdf

    Marriot’  Summary to City Council. pdf

    Marriot Survey with pics. pdf




    Lalahpolitico:  Thank you Pat Marriot for your incredible FREE service to the city providing this survey and report.  It seems to be way more actionable than the research resulting from the $50,000 the City spent on a consultant to help the Public Arts Commission write a Public Art Master Plan.  A plan that the City Council rejected in toto at its Feb. 13, 2018, joint meeting with the Public Art Commission. Video.  

    The City Council has asked the Commission if parts of the rejected Plan could be made actionable. The Commission is working on it.


    Top Featured Image – smART Series info

About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.