San Jose invests heavily in public art

San Jose artists have the opportunity to receive thousands of dollars to realize their creative visions. This is City Hall’s latest effort to bring vibrant public art into the community.

The Creative Ambassadors program gives four San Jose-based artists $9,500 each to create a community art project that invites resident participation and celebrates the diversity of San Jose’s cultural communities. Project applications are due October 10.

“The program is an opportunity to really build the public’s will for the arts,” Danielle Siembieda, the city’s senior artistic director, told San José Spotlight. “There is a reciprocal environment where we are able to understand and connect more with different communities around San Jose through these creative ambassadors.”

Although the program has been running since 2018, this investment is the latest in a series of city initiatives aimed at strengthening public art in San Jose. This year has been one of the largest allocations for public art – even reversing future investments in the next few years, depending on the city’s proposed budget.

Last year, six artists used the money to create projects exploring body image, technology and the rich history of San Jose lowriders.

“The Creative Ambassadors program allows people to approach the arts more outside of the museum setting or the gallery setting, which can sometimes feel a bit elitist,” said San Jose-based new media artist Ricardo Cortez. , one of the recipients last year.

Cortez applauded the city for its investment in arts programs and public art — a recent phenomenon and the most he’s ever seen in San Jose.

“It adds a different element, a different layer to our cultural fabric,” Cortez said. “Austin, for example, or other places where they have a very vibrant artist culture that’s strongly supported, the economy in those areas is booming, the nightlife is kind of off the hook. And San Jose is overlooked, but we could be too.

Millions for art

Over the past decade, the city has invested millions to enliven its public arts scene, particularly in the downtown area. In 2021, San Jose allocated $6.9 million for artist grants, murals, and other creative projects like the Sonic Runway.

This does not include the $2.4 million from new development taxes that will fund public art projects for the next five years. Parking Garage and the River Oaks Pumphouse Project which could create an artwork/educational walkway along the Guadalupe River Trail at City Hall.

Council member Raul Peralez also secured an additional $250,000 this year to fund downtown murals, particularly in historically underserved areas of the city.

“Public art does more than just beautify a community,” Peralez told San José Spotlight. “It can make a lot of people proud. It sparks conversation, it preserves our history and our culture.

Peralez said that over the past five to eight years, the city has really increased its investment and it’s evident on city streets, especially in the SOFA district. There are 250 art installations, including city-run murals.

“We’ve seen a dozen murals go up almost every year,” Peralez said. “It wasn’t like when I took over in 2014. The comment I was hearing was that we were known as ‘Tan Jose’ because everything was so tanned and bland.”

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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