Paintings by Natasha Kramskaya

Celebrate ‘An American Mosaic’ in San Jose

Different salsas at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival.

The gallery exhibit from Works ‘An American Mosaic’ celebrates many firsts, first live gallery exhibit for this year, first collaboration with Mosaic America and School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza. For me this was also my first time at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose. Last Sunday I enjoyed the Chili Mole Pozole Festival with live music, artisan vendors, and, of course, the exhibit of ‘An American Mosaic’. 

RGB by Tulio Flores at the 'An American Mosaic'.

The $10 entry fee was for the festival and it came with a bag of tortilla chips and a choice of salsas. My two salsas were both pretty spicy.  

Fourteen San Jose artists express their creativity and love for the Bay Area. As diverse as the artists are their works, with sculptures, painted bottles, and many different painting styles. It felt good to be experiencing art again and I enjoyed the multitudes of ideas and approaches. My favorite was Tulio Flores RGB.

This exhibit will tie in with the upcoming free Mosaic Festival on October 2. Mosaic America celebrates the diversity of America through art, performance, movement, and food. So, maybe this will be your first festival of the year? 

Artisan vendors at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival, School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza.

If you are still a bit hesitant about festivals you can view the exhibit the next two weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) from 12 – 4: except October 2nd.

The Silicon Valley Mosaic Festival is Saturday, October 2nd, from 12 – 6pm at the School of Arts & Culture Gallery at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave at King Road, San José

Admission is free.

How do you celebrate diversity?

artists:

Fco1980

'An American Mosaic' exhibit view.

Dan Fenstermacher

Tulio Flores

Force129

Richard Hoffman

Natasha Kramskaya

Jennifer Lay

Johanne Marion

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo

Betty Proper

Ally Spray

Kenneth Tan, The Lola x Kenneth Collaboration

Roan Victor

Yxaya

If you need more inspiration from San Jose artists try the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ISA) or the galleries at SJSU.

Inside the orchetaria showing 3 electric pianos and some dining tables.

Dine and be Serenaded, Orchestria in San Jose

The Orchestria Palm-Court is a very special restaurant in San Jose. It serves great continental European cuisine, but the attractions are the many electric pianos. 

Electric piano with rolls of music and a poster for Golden Summertime.

You’ll be time traveling in this brick building from 1910. The decor is art nouveau with Tiffany lamps and Thonet’s No. 14 chairs. The music comes from the electric pianos, orchestrions (self-playing orchestras), and jukeboxes, all built around the 1920s. Our server moved around starting up the machines. He played jazz and classical music, and gave us a taste of the huge varieties of their electric pianos.

Popcorn machine at the Orchestria in San Jose

Partly the mechanics of the piano is exposed and you can see the rolls of encoded paper rolling around and pulling levers. The room is filled to the brim with machines and other paraphernalia, like the 1910 popcorn maker that butters every corn individually. We were encouraged to walk around and take a look at the machines. Since we booked an early dinner and, maybe also thanks to the Jazz Festival, the dining room was only occupied by us and one other family. For us, it was entertaining to guess which machine produced the music. 

A Poppy Dew from the vintage soda fountain at Orchestria.

We also enjoyed the food, they take pride in using all organic produce. I have to say, the vintage soda fountain drinks were my personal highlight. I enjoyed a Poppy Dew, fresh lime, orange sorbet and mint. But, let me tell you this was a hard decision. Parking was a challenge, so plan for that. Overall this is a true experience.

The Orchestria Palm-Court is located at 27 E. William St in San Jose, part of the hip SOFA district. They are only open Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. Please make a reservation ahead.

A box of music, Doin' the Raccoon.

Have you been to the Orchestria?

Near the Orchestria is the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Quilt and Textile Museum

I did not receive any form of compensation for writing this post.

Spray painted sign: J-TOWN

Dive into J-town, San Jose

Santo Market mural in J-town, San Jose.

Sunday I convinced my family to come with me on an augmented reality tour of J-town – Hidden Histories of San Jose Japantown. J-town, or Japantown, in San Jose is one of three remaining Japanese communities in California, the others are in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Augmented lotus of the hidden histories tour of j-town on a phone

I saw an announcement for the augmented tour and we printed out the map from hiddenhistoryjtown.org and downloaded the AR-vos app on ar-vos.com. Our first stop was Santo Market, a supermarket with a great mural. The app showed us pictures from farmers and when you clicked on a seed it turned into a green vegetable, best guess broccoli. 

Augmented Taiko. It reads: 1973 San Jose Taiko is dedicated to cultural understanding creative expression & rhythmic heart beat.

The intersection of Fifth and Jackson St has floating blue lotuses. If you walk over to the Issei Memorial you see more images and a short Taiko performance with animated characters. This, I think, was my favorite. But overall the experience might be for a younger audience. My teenager wasn’t impressed at all.

Plants and toys at Zonkey's.

While walking around we found a store that sells plants and collectible toys – Zonkey – what a great combination! 

Our last try with the augmented tour was in front of San Jose’s Buddhist Church. You could place Chattra Umbrellas on the sidewalk. I got mine to spin, my husband multiplied his. 

The real treat were the two chalk drawings left over from the Obon Festival. Beautiful. 

Chalk art mural in J-town, San Jose.

In conclusion, I would not recommend the augmented tour, but a real tour of J-town is well worth it. 

A few more tips if you decide on doing the augmented tour. We found that we had to restart the app for every station. Also, the maker of the app, AR-vos, recommend bringing an extra phone charger. And I agree, the app will drain your battery. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk into the streets in order to view the art.

While you are in Japantown, I also highly recommend the Japanese American Museum.

Have you explored J-town before?

A sign at the Lower Guadalpe River Trail about Lupe the Columbian Mammoth

Excavate the Story of Lupe the Mammoth in San Jose

In 2005, Roger Castillo, a citizen scientist, walked his dog along the Guadalupe River in San Jose. He spotted some bones. First he thought they were cow bones, but a closer inspection led him to believe it was a different animal. He called a geologist from San Jose State. The UC Museum of Paleontology excavated part of a skull, a femur, some toe bones and a rip fragment of a young mammoth. 

The Lupe sculpture at the Lower Guadalupe River Trail.

Lupe the Mammoth, named after the Guadalupe River, was a juvenile Columbian Mammoth. It was a big revelation for the scientific community since these are the most intact remains of a mammoth ever found in Santa Clara County. Today the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose has the remains of Lupe on display. The museum also teaches kids about the works of ​​paleontologists, with a hands-on exhibit.

Mamu looking into the Children's Discovery Museums exhibit of Lupe the Mammoth.

There are two sculptures of mammoth in San Jose. Both depict adult size mammoths and are about 11-foot high. One is on the outside of the Children’s Discovery Museum looking into the exhibit made by Blue Rhino Studio. The other is near where Lupe’s remains were found. This statue is an 11-foot bent pipe sculpture by Greenmeme Artists Freyja Bardell and Brian Howe. The juvenile Lupe mammoth was probably 6-feet tall.

Sign for the Lower Guadalupe River Trail with the sculpture of Lupe in the back.

If you want to see the metal sculpture, parking is tight around there. I recommend you bike the Guadalupe River Trail. On your ride you can stop at both sculptures.

In a KQED video UC Berkeley’s Paleontologist Kaitlin Maguire

 explains the history of Lupe and her involvement of the exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum.

What do you know about Columbian Mammoth?

If you decide to bike the Guadalupe River Trail maybe keep on going to the Three Creeks Trail and see the iris garden?

Resources

About Mammoth

https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/mammoth/about_mammoths.html

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

https://www.cdm.org/mammothdiscovery/index.html

A tree wrapped in a blue cloth as part of ArtLift in Palo Alto.

Lift Yourself up by Art – ArtLift in Palo Alto

The Palo Alto Public Art Program called for 40 artists to create ArtLift, to raise the spirit of the community with art projects throughout the city, and to support local artists. Different art displays and installations were started in March 2021 and will run till September. The theme of ArtLift is COVID related, engaging the community to get back together, reconnect, recover, and enjoy, within COVID restrictions.

Tree wrapped with a pink ribbon as part of ArtLift by Robin Mullery.

I went to Rinconada Park to see Bright Existence by Robin Mullery. Inspired by a poem by Brenda Hillman, bright cloth was wrapped around trees to symbolize our distance yet togetherness throughout the pandemic. Bright Existence will be on display until August. Social Distancing Stools by Tara de la Garza, on display from April to June, was another work, also in Rinconada Park. The seats are made of upcycled materials and concrete and spaced 6 feet apart.

On the walk back, I saw a free library and hoped to spot one of the postcards from The Postcard Project that Susan Meade is leaving around town. Follow her on Instagram @swimmersuze to see where she leaves them. 

Social Distancing Stools an art installation at Rinconada Park in Palo Alto.

I’m always up for hunting down art. I like that you might be discovering them by chance. But if you want to plan out the adventure, check out the Program’s website for an interactive map of locations. 

Where do you go to see public art?

Palo Alto is a great place for public art. Here are some more suggestions:

Enjoy Some Art at Byxbee Park

Surf for Free – Tesla Statue in Palo Alto

Also check out my list of 50 things to do in Palo Alto!

Sign for the Stulsaft park in Redwood City.

Walk your Dog off leash at Stulsaft Park, Redwood City

A concrete slide for water play filled with sand.

Stulsaft Park in the hills of Redwood City is, with 42 acres, the city’s largest park. A moderate short hike with lots of shade and a little creek. We parked at Farm Hills Blvd near the playground. The play area has swings and slides and a really nice water area (from June – September). Due to drought conditions the splash zone might be adjusted, currently water flows 10:30am-12:00pm and 2:00-6:00pm daily.

Gate with a sign to the off-leash trail at Stulsaft park.

The park starts with some elevation but once you reach the off-leash dog area it is nice and mostly flat. Picnic tables are in the amphitheater near a creek. During summer months this area is used for summer camps and the off-leash dog area is reduced to the upper trails. Please follow rules on leashing up your dog when requested and, of course, always pick up after your four legged friend. There is a three dog maximum per person. 

A person walking a dog off leash at Stulsaft park, Redwood City.

Also, watch out for some art. The roadrunner near the top of a tree, for example, was an unsuspected sight. 

Roadrunner art in tree, Stulsaft park.

Overall I enjoyed the hike, seeing the dogs, and relaxing in the shade.

Stulsaft Park is located on 3737 Farm Hill Blvd in Redwood City.

What is your favorite off-leash dog park?

Another off-leash hike with your dog is Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

The entrance to the sensory garden.

Relish with all Senses – Sensory Garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt

Squirrel drinking out of a fountain at the Sensory Garden, Lake Merritt.

I did give you a little break before I write again of yet another garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt. You enter the Sensory Garden through a tile covered archway. It right away heightens your senses. You smell the mint and other herbs and notice all the colorful flowers. The whole garden is planted in raised beds that make it easy to touch the plants. The smoothed edged bricks are guidance for the visually impaired. The path meanders towards a shady seating area. We were delighted to watch a squirrel drink from the beautiful fountain. 

The former Herb and Fragrance Garden, established in 1978, got a makeover in 2004 through a collaboration of members of the Oakland East Bay Garden Center, the City’s Public Works Agency, and members of the Hillside Gardeners of Montclair. If you wish to help out and further experiment with your senses you are welcome to volunteer every third Saturday of the month in the morning.

Mint at the Sensory Garden.

The Sensory Garden is part of the Gardens of Lake Merritt at

666 Bellevue Ave, in Oakland, located near the South-West gate.

Which one is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Previous posts of the gardens were:

Bonsai next to a sign for the Bonsai Garden of Lake Merritt.

Pick your Favorite Bonsai, Gardens of Lake Merritt

Maple bonsai at the Bonsai Garden, Lake Merritt.

In last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt I mentioned there was more to come. The bonsai garden, the only all volunteer based bonsai garden in the U.S., is an outstanding display of this Japanese tradition. Over a hundred little trees in a pot are presented. The oldest is over 1,600 years old!

A large stone shaped as a bunny at the bonsai garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland.

Open since 1999 the Bonsai Garden also features a collection of suiseki stones. Suiseki stones, also known as viewing stones, are stones that suggest a scene from nature. They are usually displayed as found and not modified. 

The cedar entrance gate to this garden is by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi from Northern California.

The gate to the bonsai garden by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakuguchi.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are free, but donations are appreciated.

What is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Here is a link to last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee.

AirBeeNBee with blooming native California flowers.

Stop by the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt, Oakland.

There are a lot of different garden types at the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland. One structure stood out to us as we enjoyed the grounds: the AirBeeNBee. It is home for some of California’s 1600+ species of native nesting bees. 

Wooden hives and logs at the AirBeeNBee.

These bees don’t have a queen, or hives, or make honey. They are solitary and ground nesting. The AirBeeNBee was installed since many of the solitary bees usually nest in the ground. In this public garden the grounds are cleared, so this habitat was created with varied sized holes for different sizes of bees. They enjoy the flowers of the gardens, especially the Native Bee Pollinator Garden. Here flowers are planted for an all year long bloom since California native bees hatch year round.

Bees are not the only residents. Nearby is the dragonfly habitat and the monarch butterfly garden.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are divided into 17 specialty gardens. I will highlight more of the gardens in later posts. 

The Gardens at Lake Merritt are located at 666 Bellevue Ave in Oakland. 

COVID open hours are Mondays to Fridays 7:30am – 3 pm, weekends 8 am – 4pm.

The Bee Hotel is near the South-West gate of the Gardens. 

Admission is free.

Have you been to the Gardens at Lake Merritt?

If you enjoy insectaries you should check out Foraging Island at Byxbee Park in Palo Alto. An ecological sculpture to invite insects and rodents to live there.

Sign for the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center in the background is the boardwalk.

Hope there is Strength in Numbers of the Swallows of Baylands Park

The Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, and on Saturdays, from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm. We happened to stroll by on a Sunday and enjoyed the Baylands Boardwalk. Wide enough to keep socially distant, the newly constructed boardwalk overlooks the Bay.

Boardwalk at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center looking out to the Bay.

The most interesting part were the residents of the Center. Two species of swallows nest at Baylands Park from March to August. The barn swallows nesting under the deck, the cliff swallows prefer the eaves. A constant chirping from above and below. Young swallows asking for food in their nests. One nest right next to another. Little heads peeking out from the openings. You see the parents in their frantic flight in search of food. 

Cliff swallows peeking out of their nests at Baylands Park in Palo Alto.

While the saying goes: “One swallow doesn’t make a spring (or summer)”, explained by Word Histories as meaning “a single fortunate event doesn’t mean what follows will also be good”, we can still hope that the future will have multiple fortunate events. And if you see multiple swallows doesn’t this mean a great future?

Part of the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, one swallow flying to it.

Do you believe in strength in numbers?


Another bird watching opportunity on the Bay is in Sunnyvale’s Baylands Park.