How Santa Clara Community Members Shaped the Direction of Public Art to Honor Women

Womanhood - Santa Clara County, CA

A multiyear public art project in Santa Clara County, California, Womanhood launched in 2020 with the goal of recognizing women’s contributions to the region in public spaces. Led by the County’s Office of Women’s Policy, the project will utilize temporary and online public artworks, the naming or renaming of public buildings and spaces, and permanent artwork in public places to commemorate women who have had an impact on the county.

As part of its goal to “share stories for, by, and about women of all intersectional identities,” Womanhood decided to use a variety of tools, including the coUrbanize platform, to gather ideas and recommendations from women in the community. In particular, project leaders looked to the coUrbanize interactive map feature to tag existing art and named spaces, temporary Womanhood projects, and opportunities to add additional recognition.

One idea, shared by community resident Caroline Zelaya, was to recognize women who worked in the area’s semiconductor industry. “My mother as well as many others inspected PC boards that were the foundation of our county’s wealth and future,” she said.

Using the interactive map, Zelaya pinned the site of a potential project at the area’s Mission College, because “I was thinking of an area of education, where it may be more impactful. Something that encourages the idea of ‘on the shoulders of our mothers we stand.’”

Another community member, who shared feedback via text, shared, “It would be cool to explore women in aviation. There is a Wings of History Air Museum in San Martin. Could that be an ideal location for projects? There is also the San Martín Airport that could be a space for public art around women in aviation too.”

The Womanhood team utilized community feedback, including specific nominations of individual women, in launching their first series of county-wide demonstration projects in downtown San Jose in March 2022, called “Womanhood: Anonymous No More”. The series showcases the works of 13 local artists in commemoration of 25 area women in the form of window art and outdoor banners. The series is the group’s first step in exploring how future permanent installations will take form.

“These are the folks whom our community was built upon,” said Office of Women’s Policy manager Julie Ramirez at the series’ launch. “Their blood, their sweat, their tears, all poured into building Santa Clara County and making it a great place to live.”

With coUrbanize, the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy:

  • Used the interactive map feature to tag existing commemorative art and solicit new location ideas
  • Collected suggestions via text and web from community members on specific women and groups of women to honor
  • Incorporated community feedback in the launch of a multiyear public art project commemorating women’s contributions in the county

Womanhood - Santa Clara County, CA

Womanhood is a multiyear public art project led by the Office of Women’s Policy of Santa Clara County to recognize the contributions of women and their impact on the county. Read more about the project here.