Fairgrounds – How did you manage?

As you read in an earlier blog, I had a good idea I was able to bring through to fruition with the help of Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Management Corp and the County Supervisors. During this 6 weeks hustle, I coordinated prep, contracts, artists, and final presentation of over 6,000 square feet of murals along Gateway Hall facing Tully Road. Here’s how it went out at the Fairgrounds.

SPOILER ALERT (also posted later for the unspoiled)

A magician doesn’t share all their secrets but I got to blend my strengths together with this project. When we, Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Management Corp and I, considered when funds became actually available, I actually couldn’t do the whole wall in that timeframe. That wasn’t feasible, but hiring this out in a meaningful way is easy. Supervisor Chavez gave me the opportunity to present my idea, but Supervisor Cortese also sponsored it. I kept my presentation concise – because it’s such a strong idea, it doesn’t need flowery language or explanation. I formatted a contract that I as an artist would want. I value my peers enough not to low ball them and expect their best work simultaneously. I began heeding the hiring advice given and interacting with cities and artists. The measure passed unanimously. Away we went hiring artists and managing the contracts.

I sought out mid-career artists from each city in Santa Clara County. I couldn’t see hiring a lesser talent and having this come off as a Gemellos Showcase. This is for the County. There was some hesitance with busy artists. Other artists rose above their fears and took me on the project. The Management Corp and I reviewed black and white sketches and made very few requests of artists once submitted. There wasn’t any hurting of feelings over redundancy, tone or interpretation. I asked for larger interactive pieces and that’s what I got. I didn’t have to manage the art.

Furthermore, each artist interpreted their hometown in their own way, creating a more interesting dynamic between them. Some artists chose many topics to discuss, some handled a single topic spectacularly. The organic nature of this was so fruitful. I didn’t have to manage that. We lined up the cities in the order they came into being within Santa Clara County and there again, I didn’t have to manage the line up. Don’t I seem diplomatic? Everyone looked confident next to their neighbors and again very different.

Armed with 6 social services interns to help me manage, our placemaking sense of place presentation came out beautifully. I could better recap this experience, but they got to choose the colors that went in between each mural and sealed each one. This final presentation across 6,000 sq ft is a giant task for 6 teens on their first job experience. More importantly, though skeptical at times, by the end of their summer they felt like they had been apart of something larger than themselves. Their loved ones saw them on the news.

Here’s our progress line up video better recapped by the bios and slideshows below. You can drive the project, but not quite all the way around. I kept it short.



On the Eastern end of Gateway Hall, as you enter the Fairgrounds to the right is Santa Clara County’s murals, painted by yours truly, Lila Gemellos. Gemellos represents Santa Clara as its 50th Best of Show Art Division winner and Public Artist throughout the County. Here painted is a historical timeline of Santa Clara County, from Ohlone wilderness, to the Spanish Mission period, to the Valley of Heart’s Delight into the Silicon Valley.


The City of San Jose was represented by Exhibition District @the_exd and artist Mario Dimas @dimas_ii. The Exhibition District, closely affiliated by San Jose studio Local Color facilitated Mario’s creatively landscape of vibrant city.


The University of Santa Clara assisted us with finding Professor Kelly Detweiler @kdetweilerart. Assisted by Fine Arts students, they brought forth not only a piece of their campus but also the epicenter for the City and County of Santa Clara, Mission Santa Clara de Asis in its present day.

GILROY – 1870

Gilroy’s Gateway mural painted by Dabble Art Center director and instructor Sheryl Cathers @sheryl_cathers. Sheryl’s collage of Gilroy’s landscape and culture is instantly indicative of her hometown and South County.


Los Gatos’ Township offered up a name of an artist they really enjoyed working with recently on their Art Box program. This Gateway of Lexington Reservoir complete with technicolor Bobcat was painted at Bhavna Misra, @creativitycornerofbhavna.


Palo Alto Public Art regular, artist Megan Sara Stevens @artistmegansara brings us this mandala created from natural, native flora and fauna from the North County. This sketch was originally a photograph.


This Gateway Mural was painted by Bay Area juggernaut Edward “Scape” Martinez @scape.martinez. Downtown’s skyline can be seen nestled amongst circuitry and clouds. See what he did there?


Morgan Hill was represented by educational artist Artist Paul J. Gonzalez @artistpauljgonzalez. This vibrant look at Morgan Hill’s agricultural landscape, Mt. El Toro and El Camino Real is a great way to capture the City of Morgan Hill.


This collaboration was facilitated by Art Judge and Mayor Larry Klein of Sunnyvale. Led by Deepti Nanawati with ArtCircle Studio, The Sunnyvale Arts Club was able to raise funds for sustainability and events whilest bringing an urban rainforest centered around Historic Murphy Street to our County Fairgrounds. Artists Penny Nolan, Angelo Lopez, Jenny Tang, Ishwarryah SR, Lavonne Carrick, Kanchan Paranjpe, Ketaki Adi, Neela Shukla, and Jayashree Sadashivan participated.


After 40 years, Santa Clara County adds another city to its roster and we invited this phenom to represent where she owns property and a business, where she raised her family and where she calls home. Morgan Bricca @morganmurals painted a Gateway that is a vintage map with her lovely daughter busting through. Truly a piece of her heart. Cute tidbits about Morgan Bricca and this project: a) she was a real long shot in my initial estimation and the project couldn’t be as successful without her; and b) 3 city governments felt the same way about her.


Also founded that year, we add Campbell and Campbell Public Artist Pam Mossing @pammossing to our mural walk. Pam’s experience in graphic design is evident with this bespoke creation for the Orchard City, lifting the highlights straight out of downtown.


This Gateway Mural was carefully researched and stylishly painted by Francisco Ramirez @fco1980. A Mexico City transplant, Ramirez grew up along the Milpitas/San Jose border and felt strongly discussing its Native Americans and rush to incorporate into a City, alongside its historic adobe, Ford Factory and classic rolling hills.


Cupertino’s Gateway mural literally completes in a gate with the title of the City. Joseph Demaree @idiomism painted this conceptual masterpiece complete with Silicon City of Cupertinos being plucked from the orchard and technology assisting in that harvesting. This is a statement on where Cupertino came from and where it is today.


This was probably the most literal Gateway painted in our collaboration. Representing the City of Saratoga is Saratoga Contemporary Artists led by Dr. Greg Cheung. They used the challenging space to the max with 4 brick arches opening into Saratoga’s iconic landmarks.


Hesitant facilitator Foothill College, weighing the opportunity and summer school schedule, sent us student and Foothill’s own professional graphic designer Tanya Fish @tanyabunny. Her interpretation of Foothill and Los Altos Hills is spot on, along with the interactive deer that often halts traffic on campus.


Although we couldn’t successful secure an artist from the town of Monte Sereno, we did find an artist to pay tribute to who best represented the town and the County’s artistic heritage. Thomas Kinkade inspired 5 artists to pay homage to different facets of Kinkade’s personality, artistic prowess and commercial success. First time mural painters Kachan Paranjpe Khadilkar @kanchan17 and Ketaki Adi @ketakiadi knocked it out of the park with a pair of bridges over the doorway. Joseph Demaree captures his life studies while Francisco Ramirez and I covered portraits of differing personality traits.

Here’s the spoiler video from above if you’ve made it this far. This was a tremendous experience with the exception of the events leading up to the Fair and its depressing the turnout. We didn’t get the audience we deserved but we’ve got a tremendous piece of placemaking on our hands that each city and town in Santa Clara County can feel ownership of. It’s an incredible feat and an incredible experience. It’s a must see.

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