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Fall Arts 2016: A Changing of the Guard

In Culture, Music

VISUAL ARTS

Erin Salazar. Photo by Paul Tumason.

Erin Salazar. Photo by Paul Tumason.

Erin Salazar
Muralist, Founder of The Exhibition District

Erin Salazar, founder of the Exhibition District, a local nonprofit dedicated to creating and funding public art, has painted murals for Original Gravity, Cafe Stritch and Good Karma Artisan Ales & Cafe. A graduate of San Jose State University, she realized not long after these projects that she needed to find a way to make her city beautification efforts fungible.

“I did a couple murals for free and for beer,” Salazar says. “But I couldn’t pay my rent with free beer, so I had to start charging, which I did begrudgingly. And now I just want to make sure that other artists have the opportunity to try their hand at large-scale public art and make it their masterpiece”—while making a living wage.

That’s where her expertise in fundraising comes in. Though Salazar—along with her husband and Exhibition District partner Chris Morrish—would rather be out painting all the time, in order to pay artists, they have to spend a fair amount of their time writing grants and soliciting donations. They also have two main sponsors: The Knight Foundation and San Jose Made.

“I love artists,” she says. “But they’re weird and they’re bad at business, and if I can help take care of the business, then they can be weird by themselves and they can create and do what they do best.”

The hope is that if more artists are fairly compensated for their labor, more of them will come into San Jose to create top-quality street art. That art will tell the city’s story, contribute to a distinct San Jose aesthetic and fight the perception that our town is little more than beige suburban sprawl.

“I think a city that looks like shit has people that treat it like shit,” Salazar says. “I can’t make it less expensive,” she adds. “But I can make it cooler to live here.”

Salazar’s most recently completed project is the massive cornucopia mural that now adorns the side of the De Anza Hotel. The Exhibition District also has murals on the side of The Tech Shop and the Workingman’s Emporium—and owes San Jose two more public art works by the end of next year. Salazar hopes to keep cranking them out at a pace of three or four pieces annually.

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Liz Sullivan
President, Pace Palo Alto

Pace Gallery has been a trendsetter in the contemporary art world since it first opening in Boston in 1960, the organization has expanded with exhibition spaces in London, Beijing, Hong Kong and Paris.

This past year, Pace opened two galleries on the Peninsula—in Palo Alto and Menlo Park—bringing its strong curatorial voice to the heart of Silicon Valley.

“It’s just really exciting to be a part of the Silicon Valley community,” says Liz Sullivan, president of Pace Palo Alto. “The community has really embraced us.”

It’s not surprising. Pace has an excellent track record hosting shows by some of the world’s most compelling contemporary artists. But there’s more to it than that.

Pace hit the ground running in Menlo Park by playing to the interests of its techie neighbors with “Living Digital Space” and “Future Parks”—a pair of exhibitions by the Japanese collective TeamLab, known for its seamless synthesis of art and technology. The twin shows—staged inside a former Tesla dealership—feature LED sculptures, holograms and interactive pieces that change based upon the movement of gallery visitors. It can also be controlled via a free smartphone app.

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Lauren Dickens.

Lauren Dickens.

Lauren Dickens
Curator, San Jose Museum of Art

For Lauren Dickens, who took over as art curator of the San Jose Museum of Art earlier this year, her new job is both a fresh challenge and a return to her roots.

After spending the majority of her adult life on the East Coast—most recently as a curatorial consultant at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.—Dickens is excited to return to her childhood home. She lived in Willow Glen until the age of 4, when her family moved to Sonoma County, and would return often to visit her grandparents. She has fond memories of trips to La Villa’s ravioli and the Willow Glen public library.

“It feels good to come back,” she told Metro in April, at the start of her tenure. “There is so much energy and growth in the city right now.”

That energy extends to her position at SJMA, an institution she described as “small and dynamic.” It’s a perfect fit for her curatorial interests in Asian artists and experimental artists. That kind of work “is not something larger institutions can do,” Dickens says. “It requires an agility and attentiveness to audience,” that is more easily found in smaller museums.

One of the things that excites Dickens most about working and living in San Jose is the community. From the museum’s dedication to local artists to the vibrancy and ethnic diversity of her neighborhood, she’s ready to weave herself into that community and continue the movement that is revitalizing San Jose’s storied art scene.

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Amy Long
History Curator, NUMU

For the past half-century the Los Gatos Museum Association administered two museums. Known as the Museums of Los Gatos, one specialized in art, while the other focused on history. But after moving from their former location into the old Los Gatos Public Library building, the museums merged and re-wrote their mission statement.

Now NUMU, as the New Museum of Los Gatos is known, aims to “engage community at the intersection of art, history and education through innovative, locally connected and globally relevant exhibits, programs and experiences.”

“There isn’t any really other museum in Silicon Valley that’s doing what we’re doing,” says Amy Long, history curator at NUMU.

Since rebranding in 2015, the museum has pivoted away from its Los Gatos-centric past, and is now working to curate exhibits on topics that concern the entire Silicon Valley. So far, they’ve shown a series of speculative space colony illustrations created by local graphic artist Rick Guidice for NASA, and hosted an exhibit that looked back at several local theme parks—including Frontier Village and Lost World—which was a massive hit, according to Long.

“I’m not exaggerating. People had tears in their eyes,” she says, recalling the debut of that exhibit, “It Takes a Village.” “Those parks represented an era before all the tech companies came into the valley.”

Soon NUMU will host a collection of images taken during the Lunar Orbiter missions. These photographs—the first captured by a spacecraft passing so close to the moon—were almost lost to history. But thanks to a fortunate series of events, and a dedicated team working out of an old McDonalds building on Mountain View’s NASA Ames campus, the pictures have been restored.

“I think we are doing something that is really unique compared to the other museums,” Long observes. While there are plenty of local institutions that focus on very specific topics, like the Computer History Museum or the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, NUMU may just have the broadest scope when it comes to the history and art of Silicon Valley.

Visual Arts Calendar: Fall 2016

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