Tracking Public Art


Over the past few years I’ve been noticing public art more. It’s gotten way more interesting – we’re finally past the bronze-people-on-benches of the ’80s and ’90s. Maybe Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Christo inspired a generation of more adventurous artists. Or maybe it’s because more public art is being curated by art-world types who know what they’re doing.

Whatever the reason, this revival has also made me appreciate the old stuff more too. The Bay Area has always had a thriving outdoor art scene (Berkeley, Oakland and Mission murals, outdoor heartsOldenburg’s arrow, etc.) which in recent years has gone even crazier. And there are numerous old buildings which incorporate playful or attitudinal art if you notice them.

I’ll use this post to showcase fun public art… adding to it as I come across stuff I like.

Hand-painted U.S. mailbox in the Berkeley Hills. This seems to have been the standard-issue mailbox, I’m guessing in the 1940s and 50s, long, thin, and steel.

2018-06-30 10.40.02 copy.jpg

This bronze salmon in Portland Oregon is quite a jumper. It was featured in this excellent Architectural Digest showcase of ‘fascinating public sculptures.’ 


This utility box on the corner of Ashby and Sacramento in Berkeley, painted by Oree Originol, is part of an Earth Island project to spruce up utility boxes:


The Buslab sign on Stanford Ave (near Adeline), painted by Dominic Valleda, aka Dominic the Sign Painter.


Holiday-themed cement mixer, spotted with my niece at the South Burlington Mall. By SD Ireland concrete… it’s a local favorite every year.

Burlington, VT did an outdoor “Cow Parade,” in 2010. This was my favorite, The Burlington Free Press cow:


These are some relief murals on the side of a PG&E building in Emeryville, on Hollis Street. Done in 1992, they depict the history of PG&E:


I love this this Rejoice sign in SF’s Balmy Alley.. a great contrast to all the other murals there and just a fun eye-catcher.


Here’s a heart from 2004, the inaugural year of San Francisco’s outdoor heart art program. Titled “Heart Beat,” by Maura Kendrick.


This sculpture by Deborah Kass in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park (2015) reads “Yo” when viewed from the Manhattan side, and “Oy” when viewed from the Brooklyn side (read the NYT article).


Josephine Meckseper’s Manhattan Oil Project looks like it was pretty great (I didn’t see it in person). Ignore the talking heads in this video and just fast forward to the oil rigs pumping.

And here’s an oldie but goodie, the natural gas tank painted by Sister Corita Kent in Boston, originally in the 1970s. Read about the controversy.


Very top of post: bike repair mural on Alabama Street between 19th and 20th, 2015.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *