Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
Yarnbombs by artist Lorna Watt have popped up all over downtown San Mateo including the giant squid on a tree at B and Tilton streets. The city is also spending $600,000 to fix sidewalks in the area.
Downtown San Mateo is becoming a center for creativity as artist in residence Lorna Watt has transformed a tree into a giant purple squid and other items downtown with her yarnbombing techniques. She has also overseen the three utility boxes on B Street that have been painted over with murals in an effort to beautify the area and deter graffiti.
The city’s Public Works Department is also taking charge of fixing up downtown sidewalks to the tune of about $600,000 that should be completed before Thanksgiving, said Jessica Evans, executive director at the Downtown San Mateo Association.
The art and sidewalk fixes come as the city is about to host two major events the next couple of weekends, the Bacon & Brew festival this weekend in Central Park and the annual Wine Walk, which takes place the following weekend.
The sidewalk work is meant to make downtown streets safer and more attractive, Evans said.
The city has teamed with Watt to bring more art to the area and has also just established a meter garden, an art display that will move throughout downtown in the coming months that Evans hopes will also help pay for more art in the area as passersby can drop coins into the meters.
Watt and her sister Jill recently spent 40 hours constructing her latest and biggest yarnbomb of a giant purple squid on B and Tilton streets at the edge of downtown.
“Something is starting in San Mateo,” Watt said. “It is becoming known as a place for art.”
She has only gotten positive feedback from the public so far, she said.
One of the murals on a utility box downtown will also showcase the city’s relationship with sister city Toyonaka, Japan.
City officials have taken notice to all the changes.
“I have not seen the giant squid, but I’ll look forward to checking it out. I have personally found the yarn bombs in San Mateo delightful and as long as they are put up with the permission of the property owners, are tasteful, the numbers are managed and they don’t present any safety hazard, I have no problem with them,” Councilwoman Maureen Freschet wrote the Daily Journal in an email. “So far, I’ve enjoyed all the yarn bombs in our downtown. They are creative, whimsical and fun and they generate conversation and excitement. I’ve actually seen huge smiles light up the faces of children and adults when they’ve stopped to examine the colorful feet on the mail boxes or the snakes on the bike racks.”
The city is one of few to actually promote this form of street art and it is a “wonderful way to bring color and new energy to our streets,” Freschet wrote.
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