San Jose Attractions and Activities
Public art is an evolving attraction in the city. The city was one of the first to adopt a public art ordinance at 2% of capital improvement building project budgets, and the results of this commitment are beginning to affect the visual landscape of the city. There are a considerable number of public art projects throughout the downtown area, and a growing collection in the newer civic locations in neighborhoods including libraries, parks, and fire stations. Of particular note, the Mineta Airport expansion is incorporating a program of art and technology into its development.
Within the early efforts at public art, there are notable controversies. Two examples include the statue of Quetzalcoatl (the plumed serpent) in downtown which was controversial in its planning because some religious groups felt that it was pagan, and controversial in its implementation because many felt that the final statue by Robert Graham did not closely resemble a winged serpent, and was more noted for its expense than its aesthetics. This has resulted in locals joking that the statue resembles a pile of poop.
The planned installation of a statue of Thomas Fallon also met strong resistance from those who felt that he was largely responsible for the decimation of early native populations. Chicano/Latino activists protested because he had captured San Jose by military force in the Mexican–American War (1846); They also protested the perceived “repression” of historic documents detailing Fallon’s orders which expelled many of the city’s Californio (early Spanish/Mexican/Mestizo) residents. In October 1991 after protests in part of Columbus Day and Dia de la Raza celebrations, the Fallon statue plan was scrapped and the statue was stored in a warehouse in Oakland for more than a decade. The statue was returned to public display in 2002, albeit in a less conspicuous location: Pellier Park, a small triangular patch formed by the merge of West Julian and West St. James streets.
In 2001, the city sponsored SharkByte, an exhibit of decorated sharks, based on the mascot of the hockey team, the San Jose Sharks, and modeled after Chicago’s display of decorated cows. Large models of sharks were decorated in a variety of clever, colorful, or creative ways by local artists and were then displayed for months at dozens of locations around the city. Many displays were removed early because of vandalism. After the exhibition, the sharks were auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity. The sharks can still be found in their new owners’ homes and businesses.
In 2006, Adobe Systems commissioned an art installation titled San Jose Semaphore by Ben Rubin, which is located at the top of its headquarters building. Semaphore is composed of four LED discs which “rotate” to transmit a message. The content of the San Jose Semaphore’s message remained a mystery until it was deciphered in August 2007. The visual art installation is supplemented with an audio track, transmitted from the building on a low-power AM station. The audio track provides clues to decode the message being transmitted.
The city is home to many performing arts companies, including Opera San Jose, Symphony Silicon Valley, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, sjDANCEco, Children’s Musical Theater of San Jose, the San Jose Youth Symphony, the San Jose Repertory Theatre, City Lights Theatre Company, The Tabard Theatre Company, San Jose Stage Company, and the now-defunct American Musical Theatre of San Jose which was replaced by Broadway San Jose in partnership with Team San Jose. San Jose also is home to the San Jose Museum of Art, one of the nation’s premiere Modern Art museums. The annual Cinequest Film Festival in downtown has grown to over 60,000 attendees per year, becoming an important festival for independent films. The San Francisco Asian American Film Festival is an annual event, which is hosted in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Downtown San Jose. Approximately 30 to 40 films are screened in San Jose each year at the Camera 12 Downtown Cinemas. The San Jose Jazz Festival is another of many great events hosted throughout the year.
The SAP Center at San Jose is one of the most active venues for events in the world. According to Billboard Magazine and Pollstar, the arena sold the most tickets to non-sporting events of any venue in the United States, and third in the world after the Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England, and the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, for the period from January 1 – September 30, 2004. Including sporting events, the SAP Center averages 184 events a year, or roughly one event for every two days, which is significantly higher than the average for NHL arenas.
Notable landmarks in San Jose include Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, History Park at Kelley Park, Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, Plaza de César Chávez, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Mexican Heritage Plaza, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Lick Observatory, Hayes Mansion, SAP Center at San Jose, Hotel De Anza, San Jose Improv, Sikh Gurdwara of San Jose, Peralta Adobe, San Jose Municipal Stadium, Spartan Stadium, Japantown San Jose, Winchester Mystery House, Raging Waters, Circle of Palms Plaza, San Jose City Hall, San Jose Flea Market, Oak Hill Memorial Park, San Jose electric light tower, and The Tech Museum of Innovation.