SJ Creamery: Taste the Culture And Eat Your Problems Away

SJ Creamery is a design series by San José Social Artist, Quynh-Mai Nguyen, paying homage to growing up in San José and commenting on the gentrification of the communities she grew up in.

This is the second in the SJ Creamery series that pays homage to growing up in North East & East San José, a statement on the gentrification of these communities. Read the descriptions below from the artist. 

Guardian Lion paletas

The Guardian Lions take me back to Lion Plaza off Tully Road. Found guarding the entrances of the plaza and often seen in pairs, the Lions represent the balance between the feminine and the masculine – the yin and yang; they are the guardians that protect the structure inside and out. The female lion is often seen cradling a young cub under her paw, representing the nurturer of the soul, as well as the protector of the people, the inner dwelling of the home, and the community. The male lion is often seen resting his paw on top of an embroidered ball, representing the material substances, supremacy over the world, and the protection of the actual structure of the home. In the image, the Lions are separated, which acts as a statement, a representation of the struggle to balance between the nurture and the supremacy when it comes to developing community in San José within “Silicon Valley.” With more conversation around placemaking and public will, it becomes apparent that the actions do not align with the conversations being held in the community when more emphasis is being placed on erecting unaffordable structures that negatively impact community development for the locals. Without the pairs intact, we lose the balance of the true intention behind community building.

High Rise Paletas

The High-rise represents the numerous high-rise projects that are popping up in downtown San José, and soon, its surrounding neighboring areas. Here, exclusivity and marginalization comes into play as locals are no longer able to afford to live in their neighborhoods as they are gradually being transformed into homes for the wealthy. Studies commissioned by the City of San José show that for every person who can afford to live in these high-rises, 2.8 employees of minimum wage jobs are needed in order to cater to and up-keep their lifestyles. Unfortunately, these minimum wage workers will never make enough to afford to live in these high-rises that only serve the wealthy. The High-rise stays intact and unaffected because San Jose’s prosperity only benefits a select few, while the majority of its locals can barely afford to call San José home.

The Jungle Paleta

The Jungle represents the continuing struggle for affordable housing in San José and how this struggle extends to the people and the environment. Considered as one of the “richest cities” in the United States, San José houses not only the best of tech, but also what was once considered to be the nation’s largest homeless encampment. The Jungle, before its dismantling, was tucked away and stretched across 68-acres along Coyote Creek. With a 72-hour eviction notice and little to no rehabilitation services, hundreds are left displaced and dispersed across San José. The expulsion and eradication of The Jungle can be considered as a shameful iconic time and image for San José. The push for sanctioned encampment programs and rehabilitation social services that will provide a safe place for the homeless to build for themselves with security and supply them with the chance for opportunity is urgent; it could be a stepping stone towards relieving the great number of homelessness, and in turn, shine light on the housing crisis. The Jungle is melting because even the most affordable last resort for housing has no guarantee of stability and safety from a 72-hour notice of eviction that punishes you for “trespassing” in a city you had always called home.

I am not one to stand against change and growth, but there are just conditions to be met, such as making progress inclusive to all communities and not exclusive to downtown. Unfortunately, we have not yet found a way to alleviate the negative effects and consequences that come with gentrification. This is why I chose the paleta as the overall theme. Paletas are an iconic childhood memory for me. Whether you’re sad or happy, during good times and bad – until we can come together and take ownership, invest, and protect our communities – we can always count on a paleta to eat our problems away.

Related Media:
SJ Creamery Screenprint Showdown Design 

About Quynh-Mai Nguyen

Quynh-Mai is a social artist, designer and producer extraordinaire.

This article is part of the categories: Arts & Culture  / Community  / Design  / Economy  / San Jose//South Bay 
This article is part of the tags: Affordable Housing Week  / East San Jose  / Gentrification  / North San Jose  / Quynh-Mai Nguyen  / SJ Creamery  / Social Art 


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