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Grant funds Downtown SLO beautification project

Downtown SLO
A floral storefront design in the 2020 May Flower Initiative

Downtown San Luis Obispo is partnering with local artists and students on the Cal Poly Rose Float Team to give the city core and its businesses a floral makeover.

The project, called the May Flower Initiative, is back for a second year and it pairs local artists with businesses downtown to create floral artwork on storefront windows.

The beautification project kicks off in May. This year, the program is able to expand with a larger interactive community art project because the Main Street Resiliency Grant Program awarded Downtown SLO $8,500.

Downtown SLO is one of nine Accredited Main Street America programs nationwide to be awarded this grant money to address COVID-19 revitalization efforts.

The Cal Poly Rose Float Team will create a large floral art piece in Mission Plaza, and the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum is joining to add an educational scavenger hunt to the project.

Bettina Swigger, the CEO of Downtown SLO, said she wants to encourage the community to feel safe and excited to visit the city’s center.

“There are new businesses that have opened during this pandemic and so we really want to make sure that people understand that Downtown is doing fine,” Swigger said. “We’re going to recover and we are resilient.”

Katy McGrath is a local artist and owner of Badger Branding. She partnered with McCarthy’s Irish Pub last year for the project and plans to do it again this year.

McGrath said she felt inspired to participate in 2020 as a way to do her part in lifting up the community in a small way. But this year, she said the project feels more celebratory.

She said if artists are inspired by the project, they should feel welcomed to participate.

“You don’t have to be a professional artist. Even if you just have some little ink pens or a couple little paint brushes – if you’re inspired by it, you should go ahead and do it,” McGrath said. “Don’t worry about it not looking right or being nervous about having your artwork on display. The artist community here is really wonderful and accepting.”

More than 70 artists and 84 businesses are signed up to participate.

The deadline for artists to register for the May Flower Initiative has passed but anyone interested in applying can join the project’s waiting list.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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