Lion Tales

The Bay Area Artists’ Revolution

A+small+stand+outside+of+Petite+Galleria%2C+owned+by+April+Gee%2C+featuring+some+of+the+select+art+that%27s+sold+at+the+shop.
A small stand outside of Petite Galleria, owned by April Gee, featuring some of the select art that's sold at the shop.

A small stand outside of Petite Galleria, owned by April Gee, featuring some of the select art that's sold at the shop.

Adrean Uribe

Adrean Uribe

A small stand outside of Petite Galleria, owned by April Gee, featuring some of the select art that's sold at the shop.

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When you think of San Jose, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t the art scene. It’s most likely big buildings and even bigger corporations. San Jose natives and locals alike, typically artists, have had a problem with this for quite some time. Yes, we have our murals and art galleries, small hubs where artists can gather, but is the art scene as big as it could be? Are the artists here undervalued? How can up and coming, young artists break into the scene and saturate San Jose with culture?

Painter, west coast resident, and Etsy shop owner, Francis Marin, thinks that this issue has much room for improvement, mostly with the help and support of the city but a major part is also the art community. Marin thinks that a incredible portion of the problem comes from the creators themselves; when interviewing her, I asked the question of  “Do you think that artists, specifically local ones, go underappreciated?”, she gave a slightly disappointed sigh and with much weight in her voice said, “So many San Jose artists [say] ‘Here’s a painting for forty bucks!’ and you [think to yourself] , ‘I know that took you $300 worth of time’… I really don’t like that with artists.”

On top of that, the city seems to be unintentionally discouraging the colorful art. With plans for Empire Seven Studios to be torn down and artists fleeing the area for cheaper housing, there is a dissipating motivation to continue to live here and produce art. Francis and April Gee, another artist who creates music under the alias CONTAINHER and owns a beautiful shop in Japantown called Petite Galleria, had both pointed this unfortunate fact out when questioning them. “I hope that [San Jose] supports [the art scene]. Part of the problem is artists, on their way up, tend to struggle a little bit so, if your rent on average is $2,700 or [more], it’s less likely that you’re gonna want to stay here… I’ve noticed [many] artists leaving the Bay Area,” Gee said. This is an unfortunate reality that we must face and hopefully will immediately act on.

Artists rendering of the future Japantown Creative Center (sanjoseca.gov).

Thankfully, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope comes to us, specifically Japantown, in the form of the new Creative Center, organized by the San Jose Arts Commission. It’s described as a “new model for supporting arts and creativity in the 21st century… cultural legacy for Japantown and Chinatown history… [and a] mortgage-free, self-sustaining, facility providing below market rent to arts groups and artists.” The two story center is planned to built in the large empty parking lot on North 6th Street with a small plaza to relax in out front.

Art is something that we need. It provides us with culture, entertainment, even something to think on. The vivid colors of a painting seem to dance in front of your eyes and the right song can seem to wrap around your very soul. It even forms a happier state of mind when you participate in the creation of art, according to a 2014 study, How Art Changes Your Brain (Anne Bolwerk, Christian Maihöfner). To see an industry full of such passion crumble would be devastating which is why we must make an effort to not only integrate art into our lives and city, but make sure to inform San Jose itself that this is more imperative than they know.

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Bilingual Student Newspaper of Abraham Lincoln High School, San Jose California.
The Bay Area Artists’ Revolution