Womanhood Project art installations celebrate the achievements of Santa Clara County women

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) – There’s new artwork in downtown San Jose. The installations reflect the faces of women many may not recognize and stories most may not be familiar with. However, that is the motivation behind the Womanhood Project.

“We know the incredible women who have been part of our county, our city – Blanca Alvarado, Dolores Huerta,” Art Builds Community (ABC) project manager and researcher Amanda Rawson told ABC7 News. “We also want to know more about the women who helped them.”

Drawing on impactful local contributions, the project celebrates 25 women on banners and window displays designed by 13 artists.

The Womanhood Project was started by the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy (OWP) and led by the Arts Build community.

“These are the people our community was built on,” said Julie Ramirez, head of OWP. “Their blood, their sweat, their tears, it was all shed to build Santa Clara County and make it a better place to live.”

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She said women, especially women of color, have long been excluded from the history books.

“They were passed over in terms of contribution,” Ramirez told ABC7 News. “Perhaps silenced at one point, perhaps equally shy at others. This project intentionally puts them front and center.”

Rawson continued: “We want to know more about the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends who have worked in the community or in the canneries. Anyway – the schools – to really teach and learn and providing space for these women who have made such incredible accomplishments that we may never know if it weren’t for a project like this.”

She said Art Builds Community is a Bay Area-based, women-led public art planning, policy and advisory firm. Rawson said ABC reached out to historians and leaders across the county and referred to an advisory committee of about 21 women from diverse backgrounds, different fields, different generations, and more. to draw up the list of winners.

Rawson said the project also calls for additional nominations. Although not all nominees are honoured, she said: “What this will do is help us to have this library, this archive of women that we should know about. Hoping that this project progresses even beyond the years where we say we’ll finish it.”

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Organizers pointed out that throughout history, women have largely been stuck in the background. Now “Anonymous No More” is the title of the project and hopefully the takeaway.

“I think they have a right to say, ‘I’ve never seen someone like this before. I want to know more,'” said project winner Sera Fernando.

Fernando added that public sculpture often depicts men, which is the perfect example of why the Womanhood project is so needed.

“By having this type of representation, it’s us who come out of the shadows,” she said. “We’re the ones out there, being bold, representing femininity and just being part of this community.”

Fernando said that as a transgender Filipina, she hopes the piece that reflects her, “validates people of transgender identity, Filipino heritage and being female. Just to be affirmed in that way.”

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She feels that the piece that represents her really shines, as it balances its boldness with some subtleties.

“The responsibility I feel is to be able to uplift the many women who are not represented in these art facilities. To be able to ensure that women here in Santa Clara County are represented,” Fernando said. “And to have them on all kinds of banners, statues, art installations, etc. – to have their voices included.”

“When people walk down the street, they’re going to be inspired, they’re going to be educated,” Ramirez added. “And our hope is that when this little girl walks down the street and sees this sign, she’ll be like, ‘I want to be like her. “”

From there, the goal is to expand the project to the entire county and make the temporary facilities permanent. Also, continue to inspire and empower women everywhere.

“At a time when women’s rights are under attack, this project really highlights the need and desire to uplift women, celebrate women and recognize them,” Ramirez added.

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The art installations will remain in place until May 2022.

Looking back, and as explained on the Womanhood Project website, “In 2018, Santa Clara County Supervisors began a conversation about how women are portrayed in public spaces and approved a plan of works commemorating their accomplishments. In 2020, the Office of Women’s Policy launched Womanhood, a project that will honor the historical contributions of women across all intersectional identities and recognize that this region was originally occupied by the Ohlone peoples and Muwekma Ohlone.”

For more information on the project, click here.

For a list of women honored, click here.

For the mapping of each art installation, click here.

To nominate a woman for the project, click here.

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