Colorful competition puts art by local high school students in unexpected places

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- If you've ever wondered what's on the minds of high school students, those thoughts are on full display across Downtown San Jose.

Visitors will notice artwork across the city, accompanied by information including the name of the artist, the title of the artwork, etc.

The public displays are all possible through the Downtown Doors program by the San Jose Downtown Foundation.

Annually, the foundation invites Santa Clara County high school students to submit artwork to be judged. This is a professional art competition where winners get their pieces put on specific spots for public viewing.

"We're utilizing utility doors, utility boxes and other spaces of whimsy," Bree Von Faith told ABC7 News. "So we're helping to beautify unexpected spaces."

Von Faith is the director of the San Jose Downtown Foundation.

She said more than 200 high school students submitted art pieces this year. Twenty winning student artists were announced in May.

Their artwork was digitized and put on spaces across Downtown San Jose.

Annie Chang and Manasa Sundaram are just two of the 20 winning student artists.

Besides bringing color to the city's core, both Chang and Sundaram said the program is helping to build a better Bay Area.

"It gives downtown life, I feel like," Chang, 16, said. "Its own unique signature and sense of place."

In the Fall, the two teens will begin their senior year at Notre Dame High School in San Jose.

Chang and Sundaram said Downtown Doors opens the door to conversation. Women empowerment, culture, history, and social justice are just a few themes student artists have taken on without being assigned.

Von Faith said clear themes emerge on their own, and have over the program's 15 years in existence.

Sundaram, 17, described her artwork, "For this piece, I wanted to convey the relationship that people have with the environment."

Right now, the program has 115 spots with student art, around Downtown San Jose.

In a region with an abundance of tech opportunities, participants say these displays mean art still has a place in Silicon Valley.

"To have something related to art for students who want to be artists and have that creative outlet, it's a great way for them to push themselves and get their artwork out there," Sundaram said.

Winning artwork will remain on Downtown Doors for up to three years.

"I never thought that my art could be presented in this way," Chang told ABC7 News.

You can find Sundaram's piece at the single door enclave at the Marriott Hotel: 301 S. Market Street.

Chang's artwork can be found at 150 S. First Street, between San Fernando & Paseo de San Antonio. It's on a large double-door enclave on the 2nd Street side of a building.

In addition to having their artwork publicly displayed, winning student artists each get a cash prize, Adobe Photoshop software and a membership to the San Jose Museum of Art.

Von Faith said soon, middle school students will have an opportunity to participate through the Tiny Doors expansion.

Click here for more information on the San Jose Downtown Foundation and Downtown Doors program.

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