Cal Poly Rose Float team to create an installation entirely of natural elements such as dried floral and produce

SAN LUIS OBISPO — They say April showers bring May flowers, and that is definitely the case this month with the City of SLO’s latest Plaza Pop-Up in partnership with Downtown SLO. 

Beginning May 1, residents and visitors alike can see Mission Plaza blooming with multiple installations by local artists ranging from a framed butterfly photo station to chalk art to an 8-foot tall lighted California Poppy. Additionally, Downtown SLO brought on Cal Poly’s Rose Float team to create the interactive and ornate centerpiece, an art piece designed and built by a student team.  

This vibrant, immersive installation is the second of a series of month-long activations that will be adorning Mission Plaza through summer. Each Plaza Pop-Up will feature a different cultural nonprofit who, through funding by the City, will create an art installation unique to the nonprofit’s mission. The City has tapped Karson Butler Events to support the nonprofits’ activations, as they were a key partner in the holiday’s Light Up Downtown — the inspiration for Plaza Pop-Ups. 

“We’re thrilled with the success of the first Plaza Pop-Up, a partnership with SLOMA in April and are grateful to have Downtown SLO featured in May,” said Molly Cano, Tourism Manager for the City of SLO. “The purpose of this pilot program is to support community organizations while also encouraging people to safely come downtown, walk through Mission Plaza, and enjoy all the other amazing offerings our local businesses have to offer.”

Beyond the City-funded Plaza Pop-Up, Downtown SLO has significantly expanded the second-ever May Flower Initiative, a community art project designed to showcase the resiliency and creativity of artists and businesses. Visitors to downtown will pass by decorated light poles and can participate in a Protect the Monarchs scavenger hunt, created in partnership with the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum. Local artists have been working tirelessly to adorn the windows of eighty-seven businesses will have their windows adorned with painted flowers, and a map and suggested walking tour is posted in Mission Plaza.  

“Downtown San Luis Obispo is being transformed into a floral wonderland, and we’re grateful for the City’s support in turning Mission Plaza into the centerpiece of the 2021 May Flower Initiative,” said Bettina Swigger, CEO of Downtown SLO. “Our goal is to bring joy to the downtown businesses, show the talents of dozens of local artists, and spread a message of artistic and economic renewal.” 

On May 8, 17, and 22, the Cal Poly Rose Float Team will be installing their Student Self-Built Ornamental Horticulture Installation called “Spring Wings.” The dynamic installation will evolve throughout the month, highlighting the teams’ unique building, shaping, and decorating skills that have won them 60 accolades in the past 72 years. 

Decorated entirely of natural elements such as dried floral and produce, the exhibit will depict a story of resurgence and change, represented by a garden display centering around a giant butterfly poised to take flight. Those who visit the Pop-Up prior to the final unveiling will be able to see the progress of the Cal Poly Rose Float team virtually – via the scannable QR codes located throughout the plaza.  

“With the theme of local love in mind, we decided to tell a story of resurgence and change, represented by an installation featuring a garden display centering around a giant butterfly poised to take flight,” said Josh D’Acquisto of the Cal Poly Rose Float team. “Not only was it highly gratifying to be asked by Downtown SLO to provide some of our work for the plaza, but we have been excited, after a long year, to be back in action.”

For more information or to request an interview with the City of SLO or Downtown SLO, please contact Jacqui Clark-Charlesworth at