Six brightly colored, imaginative structures will adorn Mission Plaza in August as the final installation this season in the City’s Plaza Pop-Up series that began in April. 

“This Plaza Pop-Up series has exceeded all expectations,” said Molly Cano, City of SLO Tourism Manager. “We are so grateful to have supported five cultural nonprofits and to have worked with the talent at local company, Karson Butler Events, to create unique installations for the community to enjoy all summer long.” 

The SLO County Arts Council tapped local artist, SHAHRZAD, to produce the whimsical installation, “Untitled VI,” as part of August’s City-sponsored featured cultural nonprofit. SHAHRZAD conceived the idea for the eccentric structures from digital symbolism, Zoroastrian superstition, and Instagram pop-up culture with the intention of creating a space of fantasy in the heart of San Luis Obispo. 

The six sculptures — including a hand, flame, “evil eye”, squiggle, rainbow and smiley face — vary in height from four to six feet. The large, colorful figures are juxtaposed by the hard, industrial materials they are made from including 600 pounds of hydrocal and 1,000 feet of quarter-inch steel rod— meant to express the collective contradiction of emotions experienced over the past year and a half exacerbated by the pandemic and global social unrest.

“Before a person enters the space, these structures are just symbols of my artistry — defined by a Persian-ness, a Zoroastrian superstition, and an obsession with the internet,” said SHAHRZAD. “But as community members share space with the installation, I hope our energies meld and for a moment, we can live like children, curiously together.“

The artist drew inspiration for the pieces from her heritage and identity as a first generation, mixed, Iranian-American. Her middle name, SHAHRZAD, is a nod to the infamous storyteller from Persian folklore. In honor of her namesake, SHAHRZAD, as an artist, uses sculpture, installation, and her body to create immersive environments that serve as a narrative describing contradictions and characteristics of personal identity through time, ritual and familial history.

Though this installation marks the end of the Plaza Pop-Up series, it also coincides with the return of Downtown SLO’s 25th Annual Concerts in the Plaza. The free community concert series will begin on Friday, August 6 and run every Friday until mid-September.