Cracking under quarantine? Try the park and residential Los Gatos’s pop-up art scene

May 6, 2020 — by Allison Hartley

In the middle of what must have been my 30th SkipBo card game in over six weeks of quarantine, I threw down my cards and wailed in despair. I cracked. 

The signs were there: Between my new habit of wearing hats indoors and somewhat neglecting the imperative to study for fast-approaching AP exams, I knew the crack was inevitable.

Ever the savvy parent, my mom knew what to do. She took me back to my roots: Jack Fischer Park. The park is located on the border of Los Gatos and Campbell and contains a walking path that encircles a large grassy field and a (currently closed) playground with a water feature. According to my mom, it was a staple of my youth. 

If you’re tired of pacing the same few blocks around your own house, I recommend driving yourself to a different space, such as Jack Fischer, before commencing your stroll. You would be shocked at how refreshing the slight change is from one slice of suburbia to another — I was. 

As we looped around the park, a 10-foot-tall orange balloon dog caught my eye on a front lawn across the street from Jack Fischer Park. In addition to the inflatable dog, which is a recreation of Jeff Koons’s 1995 “Balloon Dog,” this particular lawn contained some 50 digital art and photography recreations displayed on posts as well as two other inflatable sculptures, Andy Warhol’s “Campbell's Soup Can” and a work of Keith Haring. A red sign on the fence outside the lawn read “Stay safe, stay inspired, and stay 6 feet apart.” 

Johnny DePalma, an author of children’s books, started the pop-up display in response to the COVID-19 shutdown. Dubbed the Emergency Art Museum, the outdoor exhibit features weatherproofed prints of works by Frida Kahlo, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso and Cindy Sherman, among many other artists from around the world. Some of the works, such as “The Last Roll,” a still life painting of a toilet paper roll, clearly allude to the shelter-in-place experience.

According to the Emergency Art Museum’s website, DePalma is not an artist himself but loves visiting museums, and he hopes to brighten peoples’ days with his curated collection of works from his favorite artists. 

The park and display had already cured my quarantine blues, but the Emergency Art Museum also has a museum shop that offers free souvenir pins, spray art, pressed pennies and art-themed blind boxes. As a pin enthusiast, I was happy to collect a “Balloon Dog” pin from the shop.

The pop-up museum is free to the public, but the museum website encourages those who enjoyed the display to donate to foundations including the COVID-19 Response Fund, the CDC Foundation, United States Artists and Feeding America

As an only child and someone well-trained in the art of entertaining herself, I didn’t expect to crack under the weight of the quarantine. After six weeks, however, the monotony of playing games and studying made me snap. Luckily, my mom, well-trained in the art of entertaining me, had her wits about her and brought me to the park, where we happened upon the Emergency Art Museum. 

There comes a point in the shelter-in-place experience when snacks and Netflix comedy specials no longer cheer you up, but a park and a 10-foot-tall balloon dog sculpture might just do the trick.