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The Los Altos City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to remove a Black Lives Matter mural proposal off the agenda so that the application can go through the city’s Public Arts Commission.

The submission was by local organization Justice Vanguard Foundation, which organized a Black Lives Matter street mural in Palo Alto and organized protests in East Palo Alto and Los Altos in June in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It also coordinated the Black Is Beautiful event at Los Altos’ Lincoln Park on July 3, where artists painted and drew images in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on the park’s sidewalk.

The Justice Vanguard Foundation’s request proposed a mural be painted on Main Street and would cost $15,000 from the city’s General Fund non-department Budget, according to the agenda report from city staff.

Councilmember Jeannie Bruins read a statement from the Justice Vanguard Foundation that asked the council to remove their application from the agenda so that they could go through the proper channel, which would be the Public Arts Commission.

Courtesy of Justice Vanguard Foundation The Los Altos, Calif. Public Arts Commission will soon consider a Black Lives Matter mural to be painted on Main Street. This photo depicts one of several sidewalk artworks created during a July 3, 2020 Black is Beautiful event at the city’s Lincoln Park.

Bruins said:

“What they are asking for, and which I fully support as a council person, is to go through the normal process so no presupposed, no assumptions about how things are handled … it is asking for whatever ideas they might have, like anyone else who is proposing any artwork, be able to go through the public arts process.”

City Attorney Jolie Houston said the normal process would be to submit the proposal to the Public Arts Commission, which would decide which artists to commission, among other details.

If it is approved, it will then go to the City Council for final approval. The public will have the opportunity to speak at both the Public Arts Commission meeting and the City Council meeting when it is deliberated.

Karen Zucker and Maddy McBirney, who were once members of the Public Arts Commission and now work for nonprofit Arts Los Altos, voiced their support for the proposed mural and hope the commission will vote in favor of it.

Zucker said:

“In this unprecedented time, a mural downtown would help rejuvenate and define a sense of place. It can raise awareness, educate the community and inspire as well as promote economic prosperity.”

Another member of the public pointed out that the proposed mural would go against Public Arts Commission guidelines prohibiting political or religious art in public spaces.

The next Public Arts Commission meeting will be on July 23 at 5 p.m.

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