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Public art spreads a message

By Liz Kromrey

Staff Writer

Walking around San Jose, public art can be seen almost every time you turn the corner. What does all this art mean? Why is it there?

Right: In schools, public art can be found on walls, on posters and in many other places.
Eli Cetto, who teaches Visual Arts for the Expeditions team, said, “Public art is most effective when it’s in spaces for people to enjoy.”

MiddleArt students at Summit Public School: Rainier were taught by Ms. Eli how to create art to be shown in public; these wire sculptures allow students to put a message into the art they create, even if it’s just a simple message such as showing a hobby that they like to do. 

Left: Many of the students created wire sculptures of people who they look up to, objects from places they wish to go or things they wish to do.


Many artists who have their art in public spaces have it there for a reason. This reason could be to prove a point or to share an opinion. For instance, a person passing a mural down in San Jose might think it signifies something different than it actually does.


Left: Karren Windsor, a Rainier English teacher, said, “If it’s artistic, then it tells me somebody is trying to build a community.” 

Right: This mural was created by students for students; it can be found on the Rainier campus, where it hangs near one of the gates.

Many artists have something in mind when creating their art, and they are able to find different ways of showing that message. By interviewing local artists, as well people who don’t know or follow art that often, it is easy to get different opinions about what public art signifies.

Left: Summit Rainier has pieces of public art all over campus. This piece is an example of teamwork and of a message shared by the school.

Middle: Graffiti can be found all over Downtown San Jose. Much of the graffiti is made by people who want to have their opinion heard. “I’ve also seen one that was like stop human trafficking,” Mrs. Windsor said, explaining that public art is used to spread awareness of problems which occur in the society that surrounds us.

Right: Graffiti is popular to do in places where it is difficult to reach but can still be seen.


Often times most public art is graffiti or murals. Murals are made by artists who either got permission to use a wall or were paid to make said mural. Graffiti, in contrast, is typically made illegally, but there are also artists who use spray paint to do amazing art on public streets. These types of artists typically buy a pass to allow them to paint or draw in public areas, Ms. Eli said. Often times, these artists are able to make money selling their art.


Left: “I love collaborative work that involves the community’s voice,” Ms. Eli said. “I think that when artists bring in the opinions or skills or culture or practices of the local residents into their work.”

Middle: Many people post online, or on social media, and are able to share their art, turning what originally was private art into public art.

RightDepending on what is being shown in the art, the message can change from negative to positive in an instant. For instance, the Multicultural Club shows how even though some people might see cultures as being independent from others, cultures can band together and be made into a community.

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