Black Lives Matter murals: See Downtown San Jose transformed by local artists

Dustin Dorsey Image
Friday, June 19, 2020
BLM murals transform boarded up SJ businesses
San Jose non-profit Local Color SJ used their resources to take closed businesses and turn them into murals supporting the Black Lives Matter movement for all to see when they walk downtown.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Artwork is a way to spread powerful messages with images rather than just words.

San Jose non-profit, Local Color SJ is giving Bay Area artists the chance to stand together with the Black lives matter movement by transforming storefronts into murals with their 'Rise SJ' project.

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"We really believe that public art is the highest form of art because of its accessibility," Local Color SJ founding executive director Erin Salazar said. "Local Color SJ is working with developers to take these buildings, that'll stay closed up for sometimes three to five years, and we basically steward the building in exchange for having creative space for artists to do their work."

Local Color SJ is a women-ran non-profit that supports the local creative community, but wanted to adjust their focus during the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

"The goal of Rise SJ is to stand in solidarity with local artists, businesses and community volunteers to utilize art and Local Color's resources in the call to dismantle systemic racism felt at home and throughout our country," Salazar said.

"We were able to work with 25 artists and develop 22 new murals. We also worked with about 12 volunteers who participated to do one mural together." Local Color SJ program manager Haley Cardamon said.

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The murals are spread throughout the Downtown San Jose area and each have a unique message created by local artists and businesses.

The project began on May 29, during the start of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.

"Art has that power to communicate to anyone walking by and the fact that it was done with immediacy so that anyone participating can be that they're still artists and businesses that are in support is great," Local Color SJ membership and facility manager Carman Gaines said.

Artists were invited to participate by Local Color SJ to revitalize closed storefronts and make their voices heard through powerful images.

"We all have our voice, we just sometimes don't know how to express ourselves verbally," Artist Arely Cardenas said. "So I think it's so important to have artwork to really be able to evoke any type of emotions or expression."

"Being a black person and seeing what is happening, or what's been happening to us, this is me being able, like not being able to go to every single protest, this is how I'm gonna be part of this movement and make my mark, literally," Artist Paige Mason said.

"I think that it helps the city. It enhances the city because it shows diversity," Artist Tomas 'Wisper' Talamantes said. "Every artist is different and they're expressing themselves according to who they are. We're all diverse, we're all different, but that diversity is what makes us great."

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The murals are temporary and some have already been removed to be framed.

Local Color SJ hopes to display all projects in a socially distanced art show in the future.

See the full map of all the murals in Downtown San Jose here.

Learn more about Local Color SJ by visiting their website here.