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San Mateo Creating Parking Meters For Public Art

A local project by the San Mateo Downtown Association looks to raise money and awareness for public works in San Mateo.

Painted parking meter.
Painted parking meter.
Written by Brian De Los Santos

Residents will soon be able to chip in their money to improve the public art scene in San Mateo.

One quarter at a time.

The Downtown San Mateo Association is seeking local artists to decorate a “Meter Garden,” a project that will station seven painted, decommissioned parking meters in the heart of downtown for residents to donate pocket change to benefit future public art projects.

“I don’t think anyone else is doing this, actually,” said Jessica Evans, executive director of the Downtown San Mateo Association. “I looked at other downtown associations and a lot of people do like fire hydrants and stuff like that but I’ve never seen anyone do parking meters.”

It started with a discussion about fundraising, and then snowballed into a unique 
idea to fund public art. The San Mateo Department of Public Works will provide the meters, which are to be displayed on East Third Avenue for six months.

And after community members responded to recent art projects with much praise, such as the murals on Fifth Avenue and North B Street, this is a way to build a public art scene that’s growing in demand.

“When we did those murals, they were so well received. I think San Mateo is kind of starving for something like this so,” Evans said. “Everyone seems to love it, so I’m sort of excited to see what happens once it actually gets installed.”

Currently, the association is searching for artists to paint the meters, and 
applications are restricted to the San Francisco Bay Area. Doing so, Evans is hoping to create a local feel to the art, she said.

“We’re trying to foster more art for the viewing public and build an atmosphere 
where artists can flourish,” she said. “So, obviously we want to give the 
opportunities to the local artists, first and foremost.”

In all, this project isn’t something the association is viewing as way to raise loads 
of money. After all, the meters only accept change.

But rather, this is a project to spread the word about a public art scene that Evans and others hope to grow over the coming years.

“How much money are we going to raise with the parking meters? It’s probably 
not going to be tens of thousands of dollars,” Evans said. “But I think it should raise awareness for public art and the notion that everyone has to chip in.” 

The submission deadline for artists is Aug. 23, and selected artists will be 
announced on Aug. 30.

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