The Process

This walking tour highlights public art projects and initiatives enabled and produced by the City of San José, Local Color SJ, Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA), San José Walls, The San José Museum of Art, and the San José Museum of Quilts & Textiles. The downtown San José area is steeped in cultural diversity and art, and a number of mapping projects exist to help visitors and residents of the city navigate these cultural spaces.

The aim of this project is not to create an all encompassing public art map for the city – an undertaking that is nearly impossible in such a fast changing, dynamic place – but instead, to focus deliberately and specifically on one aspect of San José’s public arts landscape: the exploration of monuments, memorials and murals as sites of resistance. 

With the generous support of California Humanities, we were able to begin this first phase of a larger, multi-year collaborative research and mapping project aimed at connecting faculty and students at San José with local arts organizations, community activists, and historical archives in an exploration of the multiple ways in which San José residents and invited artists create, utilize and activate public art spaces to become sites of resistance and empowerment. 

With generous funding from the City of San Jose Abierto initiative, we are able to offer free public tours during Spring 2023. 

In Spring 2024, we trained new student tour guides, faculty guides, and logistical coordinators in order to extend the reach of the SJSU teaching opportunity and expand the team. We appreciate the support of the City of San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs for this third phase. 

The first seeds of this research project began in Fall 2021, with SJSU undergraduate students in Art 174, Museum and Gallery Operations, who worked independently to research and write this nascent history of resistance as it intersects with San José’s public art. You'll note where students contributed mini-essays bracketed with their names and the conclusion to their essays. 

To further build this narrative, faculty experts in Museum Studies, Art History, Geography, and Humanities spoke with local arts organizations to learn about their processes for the creation of public art projects and considered the many ways in which resistance can intersect with public art production.

The team collaborated on other aspects important to the artwork and its public surroundings, including articulating the idea of resistance in both the artwork and the community enveloping that art. You'll also notice that there are comments about the urban environment in which you're walking or lingering at the artwork's locale. The variegated history of the area is marked by its interaction with all of San Jose's inhabitants and urban development. 

The tour itself builds into a narrative about public art and resistance, similar to walking into a movie. The narrative contextualizes all of this beauty in these public works of art. 

The twelve works presented in this walking tour begin our inquiry into the public art as resistance in San José and serve as the opening of a larger conversation and collaboration between San José State University and the surrounding communities. We hope that you will return to engage with this project as it continues to expand in future semesters.

(updated 4/4/24)