About this Project

geography of the arts spelling in multiple colors.

This project, “Public Art as Resistance in San José,” adds to the Geography of the Arts / H&A in Action programming by engaging community members in the history of resistance and public art in downtown San José.

This walking tour begins on the urban campus of San José State University and continues through downtown San José, highlighting a history of resistance and community empowerment through twelve unique works of public art. While the art works that make up this tour are among the many murals, monuments, sculptures and ephemeral pieces of pieces of public art in this area and in the city at large, this particular walking tour takes a singular approach by considering how San José’s communities actively challenge narrow and exclusionary interpretations of local history through public art creation.

Through impermanent creations, such as graffiti murals, and more permanent large scale public sculptures, communities within San José have utilized public art as a space of resistance and agency, resisting both colonialist histories and recent narratives of urban demise through the beautification of urban space via art that showcases diversity in the city.

Generously supported for this first phase by California Humanities, the Spring 2022 activities around downtown San José (free and open to the public) include three in-person, guided walking tours of public art; a self-guided tour (using an artistically-designed map & Linktree); a culminating panel discussion about the art of resistance and resistant public art, monuments, and memorials; and an exhibit at the downtown San José Hammer Theatre curated from a social media hashtag campaign #SJResistArt that invites participants to define resistance in public art for themselves.

The second phase of this project has been generously funded by the City of San Jose Abierto grant initiative in Spring of 2023. The Office of Cultural Affairs & Economic Development, City of San Jose has funded a third phase of the project with generous funding for Spring 2024 to train more student tour guides, faculty leads, and logistical coordinators as well as offer 6 tours for free to the public.  

This walking tour was developed in conversation and collaboration with a number of community arts organizations and institutions that have been instrumental in shaping the public art landscape of San José: these include 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. In addition, SJSU undergraduate students and faculty experts in Museum Studies, Art History, Geography, and Humanities utilized the diverse historical materials at archives, such as the California Room at the San José Public Library-Martin Luther King Branch and the Japanese-American Museum to build this walking tour and activities.

After you experience the history of the neighborhoods and the urban environment on our walking tour, you can visit all of the vibrant, rich downtown San José public artwork on “Public Art San Jose Downtown,” including Downtown Doors, Art Box Project San Jose, and Street Life.

Please begin your journey with us by reading the Muwekma Ohlone SJSU Area Land Acknowledgement

(Updated: 4/4/24)

green background with white lettering for city of san jose This third phase of the project in Spring 2024 is made possible with support of a grant from the City of San Jose, Office of Economic Development & Cultural Affairs. 

letters for logo reading visit san joseWe are especially grateful for the ongoing relationship with Visit San Jose, California, our partners in community outreach from the outset of this project. 

abierto in orange outlineThis second phase of the project in Spring 2023 is made possible with support from an Abierto grant from the City of San Jose. 

red lettering and red dot for cal humanities logo.This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit www.calhum.org. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this tour do not necessarily represent those of California Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

macla in line art
san jose quilt museum logo

local color logoempire seven logo

san jose museum of art logo in red.



Public Art as Resistance in San Jose © 2021 by the Public Art Team is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International