San José Museum of Art x The Propeller Group

In Fall 2017, the San José Museum of Art will join forces with the acclaimed art collective The Propeller Group, renowned muralist El Mac, and award-winning children’s author and artist Christopher Myers to create a new permanent public mural in downtown San José. Monumental in scale, the mural will feature a single portrait of a young refugee. Join us in bringing this timely message of hope and empathy to San José—the capital of Silicon Valley and a sanctuary city that has long prided itself on its progressive politics and demographic diversity.

The Propeller Group has created public murals around the world as part of its ongoing project Vietnam: The World Tour (VNTWT). The collaborative project celebrates street culture and embraces opportunities to forge human connections that transcend national borders. Previous iterations have been presented in Saigon, Kabul, Singapore, Brisbane, Los Angeles, Paris, Lyon, and Amsterdam.

The mural is being created in conjunction with the first survey exhibition of The Propeller Group, which will be on view at the San José Museum of Art from October 27, 2017  March 2018.

Why is it important? 

The international refugee crisis is one of the most urgent issues of our time, and a crisis that affects all of us, no matter where we live. In 2016 the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes was the highest it has been globally since World War II. A shockingly high number of these people are children.*  With California leading the way nationally in resettling international refugees, San José is a place where, for many, the difficulties of border crossing are a painful and ongoing reality.

The mural will bring a larger-than-life face of a refugee youth to a highly-visible wall of the Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown San José. The wall faces a city park and is visible from the freeway. It is the product of extensive and ongoing work by the collaborating artists.

For the past several months, children’s author Christopher Myers has been working directly with young refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, and Mali. For years, El Mac has been creating heroic portraits of invisible people: everyday heroes, the elderly, the foreign, the immigrant. Under the auspices of The Propeller Group’s VNTWT, these artists are coming together to create an empowering image of hope and an ongoing reminder of the promise of global citizenry.

About the artists and institutions:

The mural is an unprecedented collaborative undertaking by the San José Museum of Art, The Propeller Group, El Mac, Chris Myers, Empire 7 Studios, and the Children’s Discovery Museum.

Established in Vietnam in 2006, The Propeller Group started as an open collective of artists and cultural producers who worked as an advertising agency by day and an art collective by night. Their work has been shown around the world in major art exhibitions, and a survey of their work has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Phoenix Art Museum, Blaffer Art Museum in Houston, and now the San José Museum of Art.

El Mac is a renowned public artist based in Los Angeles who has painted murals all over the world. In his amazing portraits, he focuses on people who are made invisible by the media and renders them in his unique style, combining repeating contour lines, Turing patterns, and indigenous North American art.

Christopher Myers, an artist and writer based in New York, has exhibited internationally and is widely acclaimed for his work with literature and young people. Driven by the question--”what does it mean to be an artist whose work is rooted in the experience of global cultural exchange?”--he examines aesthetic bridges between cultures, classes, and geographies, and makes work in those in-between spaces.

The San José Museum of Art is committed to dynamic programming that reflects global perspectives, multidisciplinary breadth, and the creativity of the Silicon Valley. Located on the central city plaza in downtown San José, the Museum acts as a vibrant hub that enlivens the city center and offers programs appropriate to its location in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.

For the past decade, Empire Seven Studios has engaged artists in community revitalization and beautification through murals, pop-up shows, and gallery exhibitions in San José. Their seasoned expertise in navigating the logistical challenges of presenting art in the public sphere is invaluable to the success of this project.

The Children’s Discovery Museum—the site of the mural—exists to serve the needs of children, families, and schools as a center for learning and discovery in downtown San José.