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Power to Inspire Written and Designed by Jillian Burns

Acknowledgements My thanks to Freestyle for the opportunity to do this, to Rebecca Barbee for helping me connect with the Art Center, and to my wonderful interviewees Cheryl and Joe Battiato for their insight.

Opposite: Children’s wing hallway

Table of Contents Introduction 9 Chapter 1 10 Chapter 2 14 Chapter 3 20 Conclusion 26 Works Cited 28

Opposite: A child’s paper mache sculpture of a penguin

Above: Figure drawing class


I’ve always been a bit of an artsy kid. In middle school I used to get in trouble for drawing all over my homework, and frankly I never really stopped. I grew up doing craft projects for every holiday, and bringing home clay sculptures and such from school art classes. Art got into me at a young age, and it’s been a constant in my life ever since, helping me to cope with stresses and worries. The Palo Alto Art Center is everything a community could ask for as far as a place for the exploration of art and creativity. I had no idea what to expect when I began the project; I’d never done anything comparable before, and it was tougher than I would have guessed to do the research, photography, and interviews required. After putting together this book, I definitely have a newfound appreciation for those who design books, pamphlets, and anything else with words and pictures that requires a lot of formatting. The toughest part, I think, was trying to create a cohesive, attractive, and interesting combination of photos, colors, and design elements in the book, while not being gaudy or boring. Either way, I’ve learned a lot about how to write and design a book. While I don’t exactly know how this knowledge will help me with future projects, I imagine other large projects will be far less daunting after this.


Introduction I

step into the nearest door in the building, the one facing the street, sharpie-decorated apron in hand. Beyond the door is a long hallway, covered on one side with children’s artwork and on the other with large windows that let in the morning sun. The pieces displayed are of various mediums and materials, from charcoal drawings to three dimensional paper mache sculptures. The sunlight f looding in through the windows shines off the white f loors and ceiling, illuminating the hallway and making me forget that I have no idea where I’m supposed to be. It’s my first day as a volunteer at the Palo Alto Art Center, and after I find out where I’m going from a helpful front-desk employee, I make my way to a similarly well lit classroom to wait Photo: The main hallway in the children’s wing

for the kids to start showing up. The way the walls display the children’s artwork like the refrigerator doors of a hundred proud parents gives the place a warm, comfortable atmosphere. The Palo Alto Art Center is a staple of the Palo Alto community. Created for and by the Palo Alto community, it provides a place for people of any age to experience art at any level in an encouraging and open environment. By interacting with and observing the staff and visitors of the Art Center both in my time as a volunteer there and as a documentarian, I can vouch for the Art Center’s positive and encouraging attitude toward the visitors and students there. The Palo Alto Art Center is an important part of the community because it fills in the gaps

in art education and provides a fun and free place to relax away from daily stresses. As the operations manager Rebecca Barbee aptly puts it, “we’re friendly and welcoming, we’re free, and we have an incredibly high level of programs that we offer here.” For every age, experience level, or interest in the arts, the Palo Alto Art Center benefits the whole community.


Chapter 1 10

The History T

he building that was to become the Art Center originated as Palo Alto’s City Hall. When the city administration outgrew the downtown office, they chose to construct and move to the then-new building because of the cheaper costs of the property as well as the increased room for growth and expansion. Opening in 1953, it served the city for seventeen years as the Palo Alto City Hall. In 1970, the community voted to turn the location into the Palo Alto Community and Cultural Center. Rebecca Barbee sums up the effects of the community’s decision to turn the building into what later was changed to be named the Art Center in noting that “the Art Center exists because the people of Palo Alto said they wanted it to exist. And that’s why we’re still here today” (Barbee). The Palo Alto community’s constant

support for the Art Center is what allows it to continue providing its services to not only the Palo Alto community but to others nearby as well. The building is built in the shape of a lowercase H, with two wings surrounding a courtyard and the last wing stretching back with the main entrance, auditorium, and gallery. Large windows on at least one side of almost every hallway give the place a comfortable, spacious atmosphere, and the combination of greenery, sculpture, and plentiful seating make the outdoor areas equally as welcoming. Since its opening, the Art Center building been through a couple of remodels. The building was, for example, updated and improved in a 1984 renovation, just over thirty years after its original construction. None of its character was lost, however, and

it stands in much the same shape today as in 1953. At the time, the style and construction was considered very modern, especially the drive-up window for paying utility bills, the original location of which can be seen in the children’s wing. In 2012 the Art Center concluded another renovation, which improved various systems in order to make the building more modern and comfortable, as it had not been updated in such a way since its original 1953 construction. These renovations are funded in part by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, which was founded in 1973 and continues to support the Art Center and its various programs such as its art classes and free exhibitions and in a public/private partnership. Because the Art Center is part of the city government, anyone

Photo: The children’s wing entrance, facing the street.


''The Art Center exists because the people of Palo Alto said they wanted it to exist.''


can come for free and view its who live in Palo Alto or nearby argalleries and displayed artwork, eas to have convenient access to and then may choose whether or art education. not to participate in paid classes or programs. As of May 2013, in keeping with its commitment to helping the Palo Alto community, the Art Center has been host to Palo Alto’s Main Library while the Library undergoes renovations in order to “bring the building up to current codes and standards.� While the building itself has a few iterations under its belt since its 1953 opening, it has always served the Palo Alto community, as City Hall, as the Community and Cultural Center, and finally as the Art Center. Its programs and classes continue to allow those

Above: View from the outdoor tables in the sculpture garden.


Chapter 2 14

Engagement For Any Age A

short walk through the different sections of the Art Center shows how diverse even its more obvious functions are. Between the free exhibitions it hosts, the interactive activities for children, the areas devoted to specific mediums such as ceramics and and the artwork from various classes displayed on walls and surfaces around the building, it’s easy to see how the Art Center provides options for many different types of artists. However, the visible pieces only represent a fraction of what the Art Center provides for the community. According to Joe Battiato, a ceramics teacher at the Art Center, “a lot of people don’t even realize we have classes here…. Until you communicate with them, and explain to them,

show them a brochure, a lot of people who are not very local really don’t realize we have classes.” Most people don’t know about even the more obvious classes there, which are fairly apparent upon entering the building, much less the school tours or teen CIT programs. Beside the variety in mediums and tools, the Art Center caters to nearly every age. For children there are summer camps, for teens there are volunteer and internship opportunities, and for adults there are all sorts of classes and events such as “Friday Nights at the Art Center.” The gallery is available for everyone, and there are classes for each age group spanning from ceramics to scrapbooking to beadwork. Photo: A classroom in the Art Center.



Children’s programs have their own sort of variety; Project Look! travels to schools in order to spread the enthusiasm for art, and summer camps keep children busy and learning over the

noncompetitive and comfortable social environment. Practicing communication is the only way to get better at it, and the more opportunities for social interactions, the better. Having day camps like this helps parents, as well. Whereas during the rest of the year the child would be in school and not require watching by a parent, the lack of school in the summer presents an issue of how to look after children for working parents. The summer camps are a replacement for school in that they provide a place for the child to learn and grow while being watched by teachers instead of parents. For teens, beside the classes suited to their age level, there are

Counselor in Training and volunteers programs, which teach leadership skills and give experience working with people. as well as looking good on college applications. The gallery at the Art Center is free for everyone, although it’s more likely that an adult would be interested in visiting it rather than a teen or child. It has featured various exhibitions over the years, whose themes are emphasized with activities for children to do. The current 2014 “Pencils Down” exhibition features works made of or with graphite, and the children’s activities include drawing, transferring a texture onto paper, and watching a video about pencils. The adult programs tend to have a bit more varied, though they’re

''As far as far as museums, and quality museums, this is one of them.'' -Joe Battiato

summer. Having these opportunities for young children cultivates a positive attitude toward art that can carry on through adolescence and into adulthood. The classroom environment of the camp as well as the classes offered helps improve interpersonal skills in a

Top to bottom: Children’s sculpture art on a wall, children’s wing sign, children’s wing artwork display wall. Spread: Graphite and colored pencil piece.


in essence still very similar to ter their age or how involved or the classes for other age groups. hands-on they want to be. What’s interesting is the programs such as “Friday Nights at the Art Center.” Intended as one of “these after hours events where on Thursday nights you can go and hang out and it’s kind of for adults or for a specialized event” (Barbee), it’s a somewhat unique way to involve adults in the Art Center in a casual, social way. The programs and aspects of the Art Center’s contribution to its community listed here are not even close to the entirety of what it provides. It is diverse enough that anyone can find something there that they enjoy to do, no mat-

Above: Photographs of various beadwork jewelry and pieces.


''The people that are here are very approachable.... It's a very open, friendly, encouraging attitude for art students.'' -Cheryl Battiato 19

Chapter 3 20

The Value Of PLaces Like This Most cities don’t have a center like the Palo Alto Art Center. The Palo Alto community and nearby communities are lucky to have a place like this available, especially with such high quality. It’s common knowledge that school and jobs are becoming more competitive, and because of that are more stressful. With Stanford and the technology-oriented Mountain View nearby, Palo Alto is subject to the same fast-paced work as other nearby cities. While it’s great to have some competition, what’s important is that people take some time to step away from the computer. As Joe Battiato summarizes, “It’s... an outlet. We have a lot of

high-tech people taking the class- here, taking classes that are just for fun.” As a way to relax and untangle the daily stress that people face, the Art Center provides a relatively quiet, relaxed place to experience art through instruction, walking through the gallery, or simply sitting outside and enjoying the sculpture garden. Although practicing art is its own reward, it isn’t only applicable to the situation in which it’s taught. According to an article in Businessweek, art builds critical thinking skills which are valuable later in life. No one sums up the better than Barbee, however, who, in es and this gives them a place discussing the impact of art eduwhere they’re-- they can just kind cation for children, talks about how of come down to earth, and not “those skills that [the children] be high-tech, it’s not competi- learn, and that type of personal tive. Very non-competitive. Even expression that they develop, are students from Stanford can be in powerful tools in their work lives

''Those skills that they learn, and that type of personal expression that they develop are powerful tools in their work lives and their personal lives.''

Top: Tree and wind chimes in courtyard. Middle:View from tables in sculpture garden. Bottom: Artwork in gallery by


and their personal lives.” Especially for children, the skills obtained in art classes such as interpersonal communication, open mindedness, creative problem-solving, and critical analysis can be carried up through the years to help them later in life. In The Arts in Children’s Lives, a book containing various essays pertaining to children and art education, Kieran Egan and Michael Ling say that “those intellectual capacities we vaguely refer to as ‘the imagination’... experience energetic deployment early in life


and, typically, gradual decline as we grow older” (95). Practicing art throughout childhood and onward can help keep alive this creativity. A teacher at the Art Center, Cheryl Battiato, reminds us that “it’s a creative thinker that’s going to cure cancer.” While there may be no universal cure for such an illness as cancer, the underlying idea that great advances can only be made using ingenuity is important to remember for everyone looking to make such advances. The effects of practicing art

aren’t always as subtle as learning a skill involved in the process. It can help on a much more personal level as well. Barbee shares that “there was… a young boy, I think he was probably seven or eight, who really didn’t speak very much. And from going on this tour, I believe his teacher shared with our docent that he spoke, and actually engaged in a way that he does not normally do so, and that that program in that moment was quite helpful to that young man.” In an environment that allows people to re-


''I know the power of this place to inspire people to be artistic and creative and be in the arts..''


inf luence on her own childhood was strong, and what eventually led her to work there. Inspired by what was then known as the Cultural Center, Barbee cites her experience as a reason for her enthusiasm about its visitors: “I know the power of this place to inspire people to be artistic and creative and be in the arts.” With the decreased interest in funding for art programs, places such as this are important to keep communities involved in the arts. In an article about trends in government funding for the arts, Ryan Stubbs notes that “after adjusting for inf lation, public funding for the arts has decreased by more than 30 percent [between 1992 and 2013].” Considering its contribution to personal and community enrichment, Palo Alto is lucky to have its Art Center.




As a resource for art education and a place to be immersed in art, the Palo Alto Art Center is invaluable to the city and its surrounding communities. The chance to pursue so many different types of traditional art or participate in the programs and activities is invaluable for the community. The friendly, welcoming, and encouraging atmosphere elevate the Palo Alto Art Center to a unique place in Palo Alto, and hopefully it will continue to be available for the city for the foreseeable future.

Between the character of the building, the friendliness of the, staff, and the ability to be im-

for the arts. Its welcoming and relaxed attitude toward its visitors gives an altogether satisfying and enriching experience. Even when you leave the building and its airy comfort, it continues to inf luence your experiences in the best way.

''We're here to...provide that enriching experience to everyone who wants to enter our building.'' -Rebecca Barbee mersed in art, it’s truly seems to be destined for a long life, even in the face of declining support


Works Cited Barbee, Rebecca. Personal interview. 12 Mar. 2014. Battiato, Cheryl. Personal interview. 13 Mar. 2014. Battiato, Joe. Personal interview. 13 Mar. 2014. Bresler, Liora, and Christine Marmé. Thompson. The Arts in Children’s Lives: Context, Culture, and Curriculum. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2002. Print. “Educating for the Workplace Through the Arts.” BusinessWeek 28 Oct. 1996: Print. “Main Library - City of Palo Alto.” Main Library - City of Palo Alto. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <>. Palo Alto Art Center: A Self-Guided History Tour. N.P., N.D. Print. “Palo Alto Art Center - City of Palo Alto.” Palo Alto Art Center - City of Palo Alto. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <http://>. “Palo Alto Art Center Foundation | Mission.” Palo Alto Art Center Foundation | Mission. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <>. Stubbs, Ryan. “Public Funding for the Arts: 2013 Update.” Grantmakers in the Arts. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <>.




Written and Designed by Jillian Burns

Jillian Burns is a Junior at Freestyle who enjoys spending time alone and listening to music so loud that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s impossible to hear how badly sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s singing along. She has been interested in drawing and design since childhood, and thanks Freestyle for having the newest version of Photoshop. An artist by choice and a writer by necessity, her favorite medium is digital art. Jillian has little to no idea what she wants to study after high school but is excited to find out.

Power to Inspire Written and Designed by Jillian Burns

Jillian burns  
Jillian burns