Situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, with iconic terra cotta architecture and surrounded by the tall trees which give Palo Alto its name, Paly’s campus is gorgeous. However, within the campus, sections of it feel disconnected and impersonal.
The root of the issue is the lack of art on our campus. According to Americans for the Arts, a DC and New York based non-profit focusing on advancing arts in the United States, public art creates social, economic and cultural value. I agree with this feeling and their belief that public art adds depth and uniqueness to our cities or communities.
At Paly, public art through murals and installations could serve our community in this same way, reinvigorating students to care for our shared spaces and to feel a greater connection to the campus.
The only mural which comes to mind as a fixture of our campus is the two small pieces on the sides of the Student Center, one depicting famous leaders with the caption “Still I rise” and one saying the “one ship” slogan with images of spirited students and a viking ship. Art classes work to put together “arts unusual places” displays every year. But, the pop-up masks by the Performing Arts Center and other installations are temporary and many students never notice them.
Paintings and drawings hang on the walls and glass blown pieces sit within clear cases in the library, keeping them separate from viewers. And on pillars around the art building, previous students have created pieces which adorn pillars, but outside of these isolated spots the campus is lacking the individuality of students.
The school has a vibrant underlife of bathroom graffiti artists. While some of these pieces are explicit, many of these graffiti artists have interesting ideas, such as creating interactive pieces which students can respond to or tagging the bathroom with their favorite designs.
The school can utilize the more thoughtful sides of these artists’ ingenuity by providing them with formal opportunities to create public art for the campus. Additionally it’s our place to provide opportunities for artistically inclined students to showcase their talents, just as we provide stem focused students opportunities such as SciOly.
Our campus is full of empty spaces and massive walls and windows which create the perfect canvases for students’ work. Students should take advantage of these blank spaces, and the school should support them in creating more formal opportunities for students to make and show art on our campus. This will encourage creativity and create a more authentic and vibrant campus.