151 SOUTH 2ND STREET, SAN JOSÉ, CA • 12’ x 8’
sponsored by Local Color’s RiseSJ effort & Élyse Restaurant
This mural is part of the early response, organized by Local Color, to support local businesses with art of hope & solidarity after the first weekend of protests following the murder of George Floyd.
There were already a few businesses boarded up as COVID-19 stretched on. The weekend was a howl of outrage across the U.S. that brought the Black Lives Matter message front and center, and shining a light on the systemic abuse and militarization of police. In San José, peaceful protestors were met with tear gas and rubber bullets, actively harming even those who had been their allies.
In the midst of this, local businesses were marked up with protest graffiti, and a few lowlife chaos instigators broke windows and looted until chased off. It was deeply disheartening, and I was glad for an opportunity to help out those businesses while showing support for the reason for the protests.
That was Friday night. Local Color started organizing that weekend and the first opportunity to help was that Monday. I was able to join that day, so loaded up the leftover paint I had from the Veggielution container mural. and joined the organizers at the original Local Color space, the former Ross at 27 1st St, to gather supplies and head over together. I was happy to find out we were helping Élyse Restaurant – they have excellent pho!
Since this was the first set we were doing, we were still working out the logistics. Everyone with an idea of what to do claimed an area, and the more mural-savvy folks immediately started putting down dropcloths and taping off the boards. I knew I could paint poppies with the colors I had, so beforehand I browsed photos of other native plants to help fill it in. I settled on miner’s lettuce and purslane: both grow wild and are kinda weedy, but also edible.
I got help on the sky and grass from both Local Color folks and a few newly-in-San José people that saw it on a walk and were curious. I don’t have many progress shots because I was so focused on getting this done. It was thankfully a nice (not too hot) day, with tunes and community and just so positive.
A lot of people were involved, and a few stand out:
Erin, Haley, and Carman figuring out how to approach this and make it happen.
Frankie’s moral support when we picked up supplies from the OG Local Color.
Ben gathering supplies and helping us not completely splash paint everywhere.
Pace & partner jumping in immediately to tape off, give tips to paint, and keep it moving forward with community volunteers.
Sarah directing the rainbows and hand-flowers on the next panel over, engaging the kids and keeping it fun.
Jimmy, Aliks, and Jorge on the end with “Better Together” which I mostly saw after it was done. Also the tunes!
Jimmy especially for coming back to paint the “I can’t breathe” mural. This was part of the graffiti on the boards that got painted and I felt conflicted about covering it, and glad it was represented.
There’s much more since. The original approach of “stick with imagery” shifted to make messaging much easier: a spreadsheet of possible messages that business owners could choose from or come up with their own. I like this a lot because the business owners could pick what they felt good about, like Arely’s Familia mural here for Mezcal (nice touch w/ rainbow bandanna for pride month). That’s also why I’m calling this “We Were Seeds” – one of the messages on the list was “They tried to bury us, but we were seeds”, and it fits with this being in that first tentative run.
I’ve spotted a few neat collaborations in additional murals going up recently too, like this Jorge & Francisco mural with MLK Jr and this Force129 & Sam Rodriguez mural at Barber’s Inc. Hooray for everyone’s contributions toward making these murals happen!