Do You Know the Way?: Reliving Adventures with my Nanny on the Streets of San José, CA.

James Salomon in front of  Afternoonby Sainer, photo by Christine Fallon-Kraft

By JAMES SALOMON January, 27th

Every so often, my mind goes back to a wonderful experience that was bestowed upon me when I was a kid. I was in fourth grade, and my father hired someone to come to the house after school twice a week for private Spanish lessons. Her name was Christine, she lived down the road and went to the local high school. We became very close in fourth, then fifth, then sixth grade. My father liked her a lot, and offered an unusual graduation present: a trip to Spain with his son.

It was 1984.  I was ten years old, she was eighteen.

Now, Ive told this story countless times through the decades, and finish off by saying something like You cant get away with that these days.The truth is, you can, but the whole scenario seems so improbable, so unusual, like a stretched-truth coming of age movie. Yet it happened. My dad had an enormous amount of trust in how I navigated through situations and was always ready to throw me into the deep end, but in this situation he was putting a ton of responsibility on an 18 year old girl, who of course was ready to go but also had to sell the whole thing to her family. So, hmm, how does that work? I dont know, but it did, and I owe so much to him for that summer with Christine.

She went on to college and I dont remember seeing her so much after that, but through the years Ive held onto those very fond memories in such formative years in my life. It wasnt till a couple of years ago, when I finally latched on to Instagram, that I thought to look her up. I found out a married name through a friend, and presto there it was. There she was. It couldnt have been that easy. But it was. 

As if time or life never passed through us, we reconnected and fell right back into our roles, she a cross between an older sister and a childhood friend. She had recently moved from the east coast and was living is San José with her photographer husband with college-age kids. She had a studio at a place called Visual Philosophy.  Go figure.

Last week I hit the San Francisco fairs (FOG & Untitled), I called her in advance in hopes of meeting for a look at some art and maybe a bite. Instead, she invited me to escape to San José. Sure, I guess, wondering what was in store for me. Can we spark a moment of adventure there? Can we relive that Summer of Spain energy? Thats what I wanted, and probably what I needed.

Do you know anything about the murals around here?she asked. I didnt. So she went into action in setting us up with a mural tour with the precious six hours that we had. They are in abundance, as street murals are deeply entrenched in Latin heritage, an important element in the fabric that makes San José. Every wall is conceivably a canvas, right? And, lets face it, the world could use a little bit more color.

The roots of murals have always been fed by the ever increasing artistic diversity of San José,” Lynne Brown, Chair of the Arts Commission, City of San José, explained to me recently. Predating the state as a whole, San José has been a majority/minority city for decades.  … Long existing in the shadow of technology, dismissed by the larger art world as lacking a there”, San José continues on itsown path of embracing itscultural churn of creation and recreation, foreshadowing the artistic churn spawned by the demographic change soon to engulf the US art world. … The 1960s song Do You Know the Way to San José?” was written in tribute to a city that welcomes. And just maybe that welcoming, without reference to definition, is our there’”. 

The insightful and inspired Mayor Sam Liccardo also weighed in: “We love the color and vibrancy these incredible, diverse artists bring to our streetscape. San Joséans and visitors are embracing the murals and music beautifying our city—elevating our status as a multicultural epicenter for the arts.”

With this growing sentiment comes the POW! WOW! Festival, which, I understand from their website, is an internationally renowned week-long arts and culture festival. Originating in Hawaii in 2010, POW! WOW! Festivals happen in over a dozen cities around the world. As the first location in Northern California, PWSJ is produced by a team of local cultural curators with years of expertise producing culturally impactful events in San José.

“Kudos to the tremendous artists in POW! WOW! who share their talents with us—beautifying our city, reminding us of our rich and complex history, and inspiring new dreams for the future,” Mayor Liccardo continues.

So, it seems like more and more people are knowing the way to San José. I’ll leave you with a note from one of the most important and renowned muralists in our history:

“An artist is above all a human being, profoundly human to the core. If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist.” - Diego Rivera

In The Future, I wanted to display the importance of our actions, but to have a positive message that communicates this importance. The message gives ownership of time to the viewer. My hope is that people become more conscious of their actions and the long term effects. The girl in this piece is a visionary and she can see into the future. I wanted to raise awareness and strike empowerment in with this mural.
Marcos Lafarga, Artist

Commissioned by City of San José Downtown Association’s Street Life Project 
Corner of Second and San Carlos


 San Jose City Logoby Alyssa Wigant (pictured) and Local Color 
Commissioned by the City of San José
Third and E Santa Clara


 “Homage” by Chris Duncan and Paul Ulrich
 Produced by Anno Domini and 
San José Downtown Association
135 E Santa Clara St

 On October 16, 1968, at the Olympics in Mexico City, United States track athletes 
and San José State University students Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the podium to receive their medals.
They raised their fists during the national anthem in protest to the unjust treatment
of African American community in the United States 

There is currently an exhibition inspired by this event, titled
With Drawn Arms, at the San José Museum of Art
through April 20, 2020.



The title for the piece is ‘Zona Rosaand the inspiration behind the palette I used was from the location.
As a kid growing up I used to cruise King Street on Cinco de Mayo when visiting from Fresno.
The colors in the piece are a direct nod to the Pink Elephant panaderia located across the street
where everyone from San Jos
é has been going to for decades. This part of town is the heartbeat of the city
for the Latino culture and I wanted to paint something that displayed that pride.
The numbers
408 respectively in teal are symbolic of the time when San José
only had one area code another nod to the term “teal town” which many locals use.
This piece was painted for the first Pow! Wow! San José event that took place in 2018.  

I am not from San José nor have I lived there but I have visited on a regular basis for over 25 years.
Since moving from Fresno to San Francisco in 2001 I have built many new relationships 
with creatives born and raised in SJ who share a similar upbringing as I had living in Fresno 
which is very helpful in our conversation of where we come from as we continue to push our work.
Aaron De La Cruz, Artist 



Juan Carlos Araujo in front of a section of 
Sophie Holding the World Togetherby El Mac 
Commissioned by the San José Museum of Art 
Childrens Discovery Museum

 Sophie Cruz was nine years old at the time, one of the nations youngest
and well-known immigration reform activists.

 Juan Carlos Araujo, director of Empire Seven studios and founder of Pow!Wow! San José
is a pillar of the San José arts community. He’s facilitated hundreds
of urban art projects to bring attention to social issues
and beauty to neighborhoods.


To quote the wall text:
The 100 Block Mural Project brings together
100 individual artists to create this collaborative piece
to showcase San José’s artistic diversity.
Powered by the: Exhibition District


 Qualities of Lifeby How and Nosm
300 South First Street

 From Artist(s) website: Our mural focuses on the general well-being of individuals and societies,
outlining negative and positive features in life. It reflects on life satisfaction,
including everything from physical health, family, education, employment, wealth, safety,
and security to freedom, religious beliefs and the environment. Quality of Life should not be confused
with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income.



Espiritu y Corazon, de Mayfair, Precita Eyes Muralists 
Directed by Susan Cervantes in collaboration with 
Mayfair community artists and residents.
Mexican Heritage Plaza



“Bleed Teal” by Nychos

The six story mural was created by the artist after the San José Sharks
reached out to Empire Seven Studios and Mighty Design to commission
Shark related artwork near the SAP center (aka Shark Tank).
Whole Foods parking lot, The Alameda


 Vida Abundante” by Jim Miner
in collaboration with Local Color
233 West Santa Clara Street



Section of “Palatero” by J. Duh
1068 The Alameda


 Section of “Catch 22” by MSNGR
1068 the Alameda

Rise Aboveby Ken Davis and Lauren Napolitano
in collaboration with Empire Seven Studios
1043 Garland Avenue

PS: While researching Diego Rivera, I discovered that an upcoming exhibition titled Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists remake American Art: 1925-1945will be at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York from February 17 through May 17, 2020.

Check. It. Out. WM




James Salomon

James Salomon is the Director of Achille Salvagni America in NYC. He occasionally takes photographs and tells stories for Whitehot and various art and lifestyle publications.

Photo: Lori Hawkins


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