Downtown SLO: The May Flower Initiative

Community Spotlight - Downtown SLO

CAMSA Quarterly | Summer 2020
By: Bettina Swigger, CEO, Downtown SLO
Downtown_SLO_Flowers_shorter.pngPhoto credit: Downtown SLO

While Downtown San Luis Obispo was quiet in May as the California college town sheltered at home, bright flowers bloomed in ground floor windows. But these flowers weren’t planted, they were painted.

In a grassroots community art project, more than 75 windows of Downtown SLO were transformed into art galleries displaying the creativity of local businesses, their employees, and local artists lending their talents to put some cheer on display during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Downtown SLO, the nonprofit Business Association coordinated the effort, asked businesses and artists to collaborate to participate. Arts Obispo, the County Arts Council, sent a call for artists, and Downtown SLO staff matched artists with businesses. 

“We are looking forward to the time when it’s appropriate to welcome all visitors back to Downtown, but for now, we just want you to take a minute to remember that spring showers bring May Flowers, and the creativity and resilience of our community shines bright even while we are not able to gather,” said Downtown SLO's CEO Bettina Swigger.

The community was invited to view the works from the safety of their vehicle, from a bicycle, or on foot, while maintaining proper 6’ physical distancing from other people. The May Flower Initiative was originally conceived to go through the month of May, but the initiative has been so well received that many businesses have kept their flowers up well into June. 

The Initiative has also resonated with downtown business owners and employees. Lauren Christensen, co-owner of Sidecar Cocktail Co. and The Penny, said, “I contacted our staff that are on furlough at Sidecar and some of them are so excited and inspired by the idea. I’ve also shared with my kids who smiled so big when I told them they get to paint our windows! This will undoubtedly bring joy to all patrons who see it, but it will also brighten the day and give hope to many of our staff who really need it at this time. I don’t think we all really appreciated our downtown and its streets, its cast of regular characters, and the hum of its ‘aliveness’ until now, and the May Flowers remind us all of what was and what will be again.” 

To learn more about the Initiative, visit