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Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo Seeks Artists for Public Art

Posted by City of Palo Alto ; Posted on 
Public Art; Visual - DEADLINE :  
Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo Seeks Artists for Public Art



The Palo Alto Public Art Program is seeking the professional services of artists or artist teams working in diverse media who are interested in being considered for a possible commission in the Junior Museum and Zoo (JMZ), located at 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA.

Budget:  $150,000 – $200,000.

Eligibility:  The call is open to professional artists over the age of 18 residing in the United States. All applicants must have all necessary documentation and permits to work in the United States at the time of submittal of qualifications.

Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo Background
As the Bay Area’s only children’s science center and zoo, the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) is a place where children, ages 0-9 years old, and families explore, wonder and make discoveries about the natural world. Their mission is to engage a child’s curiosity for science and nature.

For visiting children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, they provide multi-sensorial, kinesthetic and play-based exhibits, authentic artifacts, hands-on programs, and live animal encounters designed to connect children to early science concepts.   Their exhibit messaging is designed to cultivate connections to the scientific and natural world and introduce conservation issues and solutions.

The JMZ hosts about 150,000 visitors per year. For school-aged children, the museum offers annually 1,200 in-depth and hands-on science lessons and camps to 19,000 preschool and elementary students in local elementary schools, at the museum, and in local open space preserves where students gain concrete experience and practice with scientific methods and theory, and conservation practice.

As the Junior Museum and Zoo approaches its 83rd year, the museum and zoo are constrained by a facility that no longer reflects the needs of its visitors, collections, and operations. A new facility will be built to “right size” the Junior Museum and Zoo to better serve their audience.  There are multiple opportunities for an artist to integrate into the project.

Visitor Experience Goals for the new Building:

  • Tailor spaces for experiences to specific audience segments, including early childhood audiences and children with special needs.
  • Develop safe and effective ways to connect children with live animals.
  • Expand indoor exhibit spaces to allow for more science exhibits, and create a stronger connection between the zoo and indoor experiences.
  • Develop classrooms that improve student engagement and learning impact.
  • Improve access, safety, toilets and way finding.
  • Create opportunities for outdoor “play in nature” experiences.
  • Improve access from the JMZ to Rinconada Park amenities: playground; Children’s Library; Children’s Theatre; Stern Community Center; Art Center; Walter Hays Elementary.


Public Art Opportunities

It is intended that the public art support the JMZ mission to engage a child’s curiosity for science and nature. There are numerous opportunities for artwork associated with the project. The final artwork must be accessible to the public in the free areas of the JMZ facility. Once selected, the project artist will be able to join the design team to look for further opportunities to integrate artwork, potentially leveraging the budget of elements already in the construction budget. Several spaces that have been identified for the integration of art are:

  • The entry plaza – an artist may create artwork for the paving, the seating area, the dividing gate to the Loose in the Zoo area, among other opportunities.
  • The 450 foot wall facing Rinconada Park
  • The netting over the Loose in the Zoo area
  • The building façade

Additionally, it should be noted that there will be trees removed during the construction process and it is intended that the wood be salvaged and re-integrated into the site. An artist may utilize that material for public art purposes.

The tentative RFQ timeline is as follows:

  • RFQ Issued: December 22, 2016
  • Pre-Qualification Meeting: NONE
  • Deadline for Questions, Clarifications: January 5 1:00 PM PST
  • City of Palo Alto to Provide Answers to Questions: January 10, 2017
  • Qualifications Due: February 1, 2017 3:00 PM PST
  • Finalists Identified: By the end of February
  • Finalist Interviews: Week of March 6, 2017


Artist Selection Criteria and Process

City staff and the selection committee will evaluate the documents provided based on the following criteria:

  • Strength of previous work in similar environments
  • Suitability to the Junior Museum and Zoo
  • Durability of Materials
  • High degree of audience engagement
  • Demonstrated ability to complete public art projects of similar scale


The selection committee will select 3 to 5 Artists to interview, and select the final artist based on the interview.

How to Apply 
All interested artists are invited to submit their qualifications electronically via the CaFÉ™ system. Applicants will be asked to submit the following materials:

  • A letter of Interest that describes the artist’s intent to participate in this project.
  • An Updated Resume – 5 page maximum
  • Up to 6 images of the artist’s previous work.  If submitting renderings for a project, please label them as such. Please do not submit renderings of unrealized projects. Artists submitting as a team may submit a joint application with 6 images or they may submit individual applications but clearly state their intention to collaborate in their Letter of Interest.
  • An annotated list of images with budgets.


QUESTIONS?  Contact Ken Mullen, Contract Administrator by email at