Art installations celebrate accomplishments of Santa Clara County women

Leaning on impactful, local contributions, the project celebrates 25 women on banners and window displays
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- There is new artwork across Downtown San Jose. The installations reflect the faces of women many may not recognize and stories most may be unfamiliar with. However, that's the motivation behind the Womanhood Project.

"We know about the amazing women who've been a part of our county, of our city- Blanca Alvarado, Dolores Huerta," Art Builds Community (ABC) Project Manager and Researcher, Amanda Rawson told ABC7 News. "We also want to know about the women who helped them."

Leaning on impactful, local contributions, the project celebrates 25 women on banners and window displays, designed by 13 artists.

The Womanhood Project was launched by Santa Clara County's Office of Women's Policy (OWP) and led by the Arts Build Community.

"These are the folks whom our community was built upon," Julie Ramirez, OWP manager said. "Their blood, their sweat, their tears, all poured into building Santa Clara County and making it a great place to live."

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She said women, particularly women of color have long been left out of history books.

"They've been ignored in terms of their contribution," Ramirez told ABC7 News. "Maybe silenced at one point, also maybe timid at others. This project intentionally brings them to the forefront."

Rawson continued, "We want to learn about the mothers, the grandmothers, the aunties, the friends who have been working in the community, or working in the canneries. Whatever it may be- the schools- to really teach and learn and provide space for these women who have made these amazing accomplishments that we may not ever find out about if it weren't for a project like this."

She said Art Builds Community is a women-led public art planning, policy and consulting firm based in the Bay Area. Rawson said ABC reached out to historians and leaders across the county, and referred to an advisory committee of about 21 women of various backgrounds, from different fields, differing generations, etc. to come up with the list of honorees.

Rawson said the project also calls for additional nominations. While not every nominee will be honored, she said, "What that will do is help us have this library, this archive of women that we should be knowing about. Hoping that this project actually moves forward even past the years that we say that we're going to complete it."

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Organizers emphasized that throughout history, women have largely been stuck in the background. Now, "Anonymous No More" is the project title and hopefully the takeaway.

"I think it's okay for them to say, 'I never seen someone like that before. I want to find out more,'" project honoree, Sera Fernando said.

Fernando added, public sculpture often depicts men, which is the perfect example of why the Womanhood Project is so needed.

"By having this type of representation, that's us stepping out of the shadows," she said. "That's us being out there, being bold, representing womanhood, and just being part of this community."

Fernando said that as a transgender Filipina, she hopes the piece that reflects her, "Validates people of transgender identity, Filipino heritage, and being a woman. Just being affirmed in that way."

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She feels the piece that represents her really shines, because it balances her boldness with some subtleties.

"The responsibility I feel is being able to uplift the many women who are not represented in these art installations. To be able to ensure that the women here in Santa Clara County are represented," Fernando said. "And to have them across all sorts of banners, statues, art installations, anything like that- for their voice to be included."

"When folks walk down the street, they're going to be inspired, they're going to be educated," Ramirez added. "And our hope is when that little girl walks down the street and sees that sign, she's gonna say, 'I want to be just like her.'"

From here, the goal is to expand the project across the county and to make the temporary installations permanent. Also, to continue to inspire and empower women everywhere.

"In a time when women's rights are under attack, this project really underscores the need and the desire to uplift women, to celebrate women, and to recognize them," Ramirez added.

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The art installations will remain up through May 2022.

Looking back, and as explained on the Womanhood Project website, "In 2018, County of Santa Clara County Supervisors began a conversation about how women are represented in public spaces and endorsed a plan for artworks that commemorate their achievements. In 2020, the Office of Women's Policy launched Womanhood, a project that will honor the historic contributions of women across all intersectional identities and acknowledging that this region was originally occupied by the Ohlone and Muwekma Ohlone people."

For more information on the project, click here.

For a list of honored women, click here.

For mapping of each art installation, click here.

To nominate a woman for the project, click here.

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